Lady Eagles flew high in 2015-16

By: W. Curt Vincent -

ELIZABETHTOWN — Although coach Patty Evers and some of her Lady Eagles players now have softball to prepare for, the recent basketball season continues to resonate — mixed with the disappointment of falling one step short of a Class 2-A championship game and the joy of a 31-1 season.

“I am very proud of our season,” Evers said. “We took it one game at a time, played a good non-conference schedule, and finished with a strong run in the playoffs.”

That non-conference schedule included taking on a handful of Class 4-A schools, and East Bladen handed each of them a loss — 47-42 against Jack Britt, 47-26 against Hoke County and 64-36 against Wilmington Ashley.

The Lady Eagles went into the Four County Conference schedule boasting a 7-0 record and a No. 1 ranking in the state among Class 2-A schools according to NCpreps. East Bladen continued the momentum, making a 14-0 run through the conference and 3-0 run through the conference tournament to win both titles. In the playoffs, the Lady Eagles went 4-1, earning a berth in their 10th Eastern Regional in the past 15 seasons.

From the start of the season, Evers knew she had good leadership from a handful of seniors like Lacey Suggs, Abby Ward, Christiana Cromartie and Miller Heustess.

“Those seniors have given a lot of time to our program and I am thankful for that,” Evers said. “They will be missed.”

Over the course of their high-school careers, those four seniors have amassed an overall record of 102-11. Evers was also happy to see other players who improved immensely.

“We had several players to step up this year,” she said. “Chris (Cromartie), Emily (Scott) and Ashley (Hardin) came a long way in filling our post needs; Abby did a great job seeing the floor and running our offense. Ja’Tyra (Moore-Peterson) was a nice surprise this year averaging nine points per game coming off the bench. Miller is such a great leader and role player, her shot improved this year.”

But the overall leader on the team was Suggs, who averaged 22.4 points per game for the Lady Eagles, along with 9.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and five steals per game. For her career at East Bladen, Suggs scored a total of 2,139 points, which places her third on the all-time scoring list.

Other notable statistics from the season include:

— Ward averaged 9.1 points per game, 6.6 assists and 5.5 steals. She also hit 23 of 73 three-pointers.

— Cromartie averaged 5.8 rebounds and 4.2 blocked shots per game.

— Scott averaged 5.5 rebounds per game.

If East Bladen’s success were to be boiled down to one aspect of the game, Evers makes sure it is a stifling defense.

“Our defense has always been our foundation and it helped against some of those teams we ran into in the playoffs,” she said.

That effort toward playing solid defense not only helped fuel an explosive offense, but also showed up in the season statistics, as the Lady Eagles averaged just over 18 steals per game and about 21 defensive rebounds per game.

East Bladen scored a total of 1,842 points during the season, 57.6 points per game, while allowing just 928 points, 29 per game.

Although Evers knows she will have to rebuild for the 2016-17 season with the graduation of Suggs, Ward, Cromartie and Heustess, she said she hasn’t yet begun to look ahead.

“I wait until the summer to start,” she said. “I do encourage the others to get out and work on their game on their own, because that’s what it takes. I am excited every year Nov. 1 comes around.”

However …

“Tradition never graduates,” she added. “You set a standard and the ones who come through know what I stand for and what our goals are. We do rebuild some years, but so does every team.”

W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

W. Curt Vincent