ELIZABETHTOWN — The Lady Eagles, back to full strength with the return of Ja’Tyra Moore-Peterson from the flu, forced visiting South Robeson into 35 turnovers, put five players in double figures and launched 97 shots en route to a 79-51 win that clinched the Three Rivers Conference regular-season crown.
East Bladen improved to 21-1 overall, 16-1 in the conference.
Baskets by Moore-Peterson and Shardajah Brown to start the game gave the Lady Eagles a 4-0 edge and the defense held the visitors scoreless for the first 2:23 of the game. After a basket by Erica McKoy was sandwiched around two Lady Mustang buckets, East Bladen went on a 6-0 spurt on baskets by Brown and Lorna Mendell, then two free throws by Patience Ward for a 12-4 lead.
South Rob stopped the run with a bucket, but the Lady eagles went on another 6-0 run on baskets from Mendell, McKoy and Ward to open an 18-6 edge. The first quarter ended with a Lady Mustangs free throw and two free throws from Moore-Peterson to give East Bladen a 20-7 lead.
Ashley Hardin opened the second stanza with a three-pointer for East Bladen, but the visitors hit two quick buckets to pull within 23-11. Hardin answered with another three-pointer just ahead of an old-fashioned three-point play by South Rob. East Bladen then erupted for a 9-0 run on a free throw and basket by McKoy, two baskets by Moore-Peterson and a bucket by Hardin for a 35-23 lead.
The Lady Mustangs stopped the bleeding with a bucket, but the Band-Aid didn’t hold, as East Bladen finished the half with a 6-0 spurt on a basket by McKoy and two baskets from Brown to take a 41-16 advantage into the intermission.
South Robeson opened the second half with a 6-2 run, but Ward connected on a basket and two free throws to give East Bladen a 47-22 lead. The Lady Mustangs responded with two baskets before the Lady Eagles went on a 6-0 burst on two buckets by McKoy and a basket by Ward. A South Rob basket was answered by a basket from Ward, and a three-pointer by the Lady Mustangs was answered by a pair of free throws each from Moore-Peterson and Ward to finish the third quarter with East Bladen up, 59-32.
The fourth quarter all but belonged to Anna Kate White for the Lady Eagles.
South Rob opened the fourth frame with a 6-2 spurt, but White canned two straight mid-range baskets for East Bladen. After a three-pointer by the visitors, the Lady Eagles got two buckets from McKoy and another basket and free throw by White to take a 73-44 lead.
South Robeson hit a free htrow and drained another three-pointer, but White hit a bucket and added a free throw moments later to give the Lady Eagles a 75-48 lead. But Abbie Cross sandwiched a basket and two free throws around a South Rob three-pointer to finish off the win.
“Overall I’m pretty happy,” said East Bladen coach Patty Evers. “These girls have worked hard to put something up on the banner (in the gym), and I’m happy for them.
“I’m kind of speechless with how we’ve been scoring,” she added. “I’d always like to play better defense, but getting the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament is big.”
McKoy led the Lady Eagles with 17 points and added five assists; Ward contributed 15 points with nine rebounds and seven steals; Moore-Peterson scored 10 points with six assists; Brown added 10 points and eight rebounds; White scored 10 points, all in the fourth quarter; and Hardin hot two three-pointers and had five steals.
East Bladen will host West Bladen on Friday at 6 p.m. in the regular-season finale.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.