ELIZABETHTOWN — After a sluggish start, the Lady Eagles used a dominant second quarter by Patience Ward and cruised to a 69-38 win over visiting Hertford County in the opening round of the state’s Class 2-A playoffs.
East Bladen, a No. 5 seed in the East Region, improved to 26-1 and will host No. 12 Midway, 24-2, on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Erica McKoy and Shardajah Brown hots baskets to open the game for the Lady Eagles before the Lady Bears sandwiched a pair of three-pointers around a Brown bucket to knot the score at 6-6. Ja’Tyra Moore-Peterson canned a basket and McKoy got an old-fashioned three-point play to give East Bladen an 11-6 edge before Hertford County hit a basket at the buzzer to stay within 11-8.
That’s when Ward and the Lady Eagles’ defense came alive.
East Bladen opened the second stanza with a 9-0 run fueled by three steals by Ward that she converted into breakaway layups to help give East Bladen a 20-8 lead. The Lady Bears couldn’t buy a point against the Lady Eagles’ stifling, trapping defense over the quarter’s first 2:13 — and those points came on a pair of free throws. Moore-Peterson drained a three-pointer before Hertford County hit two more free throws, but East Bladen went on a 6-0 burst on two buckets by Ward and one from McKoy to open a 28-12 lead.
The Lady Bears canned their only field goal of the quarter at the 2:44 mark, but East Bladen finished the half on an 8-0 run on two more steals by Ward that she converted into layup baskets, a three-pointer by Moore-Peterson and a free throw by Ward for a 36-14 lead.
“I think they were nervous,” East Bladen coach Patty Evers said at halftime about the Lady Eagles’ slow start.”I could see it in their faces.”
A basket by Ward, free throw by Moore-Peterson and two free throws by Ward for East Bladen were all answered by Hertford County buckets to start the second half, but the Lady Eagles put together a 7-0 burst on a three-pointer by Moore-Peterson and baskets by Brown and Lorna Mendell to take a 48-20 advantage. The Lady Bears dropped in a three-pointer ahead of another basket by Mendell, but the visitors closed the third quarter on a 6-3 run to whittle the deficit to 53-29.
Hertford County got the first basket of the fourth frame, but East Bladen manufactured a 14-0 explosion on five points from Ward, five points from McKoy, and baskets by Brown and Moore-Peterson to push the lead to 67-31. Three minutes after that first basket to open the quarter, the Lady Bears dropped in a second basket and, after two free throws by McKoy, Hertford County finished the game with a 5-0 run.
“Aside from that slow start, I think we played a complete game,” Evers said. “The defense was good and our traps helped us get turnovers.
“We communicated real well, and we were able to get all the girls in off the bench,” she added.
Ward led four East Bladen players in double figures with 24 points, just missing a double-double with nine rebounds along with seven steals, four assists and one blocked shot. McKoy scored 15 points for the Lady Eagles with eight rebounds; Moore-Peterson scored 15 points with two three-pointers, five assists and four steals; Brown scored 10 points; Ashley Hardin had seven rebounds; and Mendell had six rebounds.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.