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Missed free throws and turnovers proved to be the difference Tuesday night as St. Pauls rallied with a 7-2 closing run to defeat East Bladen 53-49 in boys non-conference basketball action at East.

It was the season opener for the Eagles, while St. Pauls improved to 3-0 with the victory. The Bulldogs are coached by Dublin native and West Bladen grad Matt Hill.

Coach Ken Cross’ Eagles missed all eight of their fourth quarter free throws to finish 9 for 22 at the foulline for the game. Three successive turnovers during the winning run by St Pauls also proved costly.

St. Pauls took a 41-36 lead into the final period and widened the gap to 46-36 on Dante Burden’s driving lay-up with 6:35 left to play.

Back came the Eagles with an 11-0 run. Ethan Hines popped in an 8-foot jumper, and Eian Hines muscled in a lay-up off of an in-bounds pass then tapped in a rebound with 4:33 on the clock.

Eian Hines nailed a 3-point shot from the right wing, and Jermaine Robinson banked in a runner to vault the Eagles in front 47-46 with 2:39 remaining to play.

After a pair of missed East Bladen foul shots at the 2:06 mark, a rebound basket by Kian Harlee with 1:52 left, and Burden’s steal and lay-up 14 seconds later put the Bulldogs ahead to stay at 50-47.

After another Eagle turnover, a Burden free throw made it 51-47. Senior Chris Cromartie powered in a rebound to pull East within 51-49 with 15 ticks remaining, but a pair of Burden foul shots with 10 seconds left sealed the verdict.

Burden topped the St. Pauls scoring with 17 points, and Deonte Bridges followed with 10 points. Harlee added 8 points.

Robinson led the Eagles with 14 points, and Eian Hines posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds and also came up with 3 steals.

Ethan Hines, Eian’s twin brother, tossed in 8 points for East Bladen, and Cromartie finished with 6 points and 5 rebounds.

The Bulldogs dominated the boards in the opening minutes and raced to an 11-2 lead on the strength of a trio of rebound baskets – two by Harlee.

Robinson bombed in a 3-pointer to stop the Bulldog run, Eian Hines scooped in a lay-up and Trevor Lloyd flipped in a short jumper to pull the Eagles to within 12-9.

Burden’s 3-pointer pushed the Bulldog lead to 15-9, but Eian Hines and Sincere Smith hit free throws, and Cromartie dropped in a pair of foul shots for East. Ethan Hines beat the buzzer at the quarter break with a follow shot to pull the Eagles to within 16-15.

The East Bladen run continued as Ethan Hines drained a 3-point shot, and Robinson scored a lay-up in transition. Smith nailed a 3-pointer, and Cromartie wheeled to the basket to put back a rebound.

A Derrick Burney free throw pushed the Eagle lead to 26-19 with 3:07 left in the half. Suddenly the Eagles went stone cold from the field, and the Bulldogs finished the half with 7 straight points.

Burden’s driving lay-up and a Romeo Jordan follow shot that beat the horn by a second tied the game 26-26 at intermission.

East Bladen’s Dayvon Powell who was plagued by foul trouble all night started the second half with a 6-foot runner, and Robinson dropped in a lay-up off of an Eian Hines assist.

Robinson banked in a runner for a 32-27 East lead, then turned another driving bank shot into a 3-point play and a 35-30 East lead with 2:59 on the third period clock.

Just like flipping a switch the Eagle offense shut down again as the Bulldogs ran off 11 consecutive points to take a 41-35 lead. Jacob Oxendine’s 5-point play highlighted the St. Pauls run. Oxendine was knocked down as he buried a 3-point shot, missed his free throw, but grabbed his own rebound and put it back in to leap the Bulldogs ahead 37-35.

A Zeke Sansbury floater and another Burden lay-up made it 41-35, before Ethan Hines’ free throw trimmed the margin to 41-36 at the break.

The Bulldogs held a 38-29 advantage on the boards – mainly on the strength of a 14-7 edge in the first quarter. Neither team lit it up at the foulline as the Bulldogs converted only 10 of 20 foul shots.

Seven of the Eagle players had just completed their football season on Friday night.

East Bladen (49) –Denzel Johnson, Jermaine Robinson 14, Demetrius Wooten, Dayvon Powell 4, Deondre Newkirk, Ethan Hines 8, Eian Hines 10, Sincere Smith 4, Derrick Burney 1, Chris Cromartie 6, Ty McMillian, Trevor Lloyd 2.

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