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By John Clark

BLADENBORO – The first East Bladen/West Bladen boys’ game was dubbed an ‘Instant Classic’ – Monday night’s rematch before a raucous packed house in the Castle was even better.

There were 10 lead-changes and 8 ties before Knight freshman Tylik McCall’s rebound basket with 1.4 seconds left in overtime lifted West Bladen to the 54-52 Southeastern Athletic Conference victory.

Eagle Coach Aking Elting tried to call time-out after McCall’s basket but was unable to get the officials to grant one as time expired.

There was an abundance of stars for both teams, and they put on a show as the fans swayed and sung – particularly during a double time-out with 2.5 seconds left in regulation and the score tied.

Knight freshman Jackson Pait scorched the nets with seven 3-point baskets and led all scorers with 24 points. Center Chase Williams, a 6-7 sophomore, posted a double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds. McCall added 11 points and 5 rebounds. Sophomore Hezekiah Adams grabbed 5 rebounds.

“Chase and Tylik were huge tonight – just out of this world amazing,” said West Bladen Coach Travis Pait. “I thought Gary Parker gave us a shot in the arm when he came in and helped settle us down after they got the lead. Big for him to play well in his last home game against East. Everyone that played contributed.”

Coach Pait refrains from commenting on his son Jackson’s play to the media, but Jackson connected on 5 of his 3-pointers after halftime including a big one in overtime.

Senior Zamar Lewis posted a double-double for the Eagles with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Sophomore Dominick Collins and seniors Malcolm Bolden and Jacob Nixon shared team-scoring honors with Lewis – all of them tallied 12 points each. Nixon and Collins snared 4 rebounds each.

“This was a tough one,” said Elting. “It’s a shame that the way my guys played they didn’t get another chance with a time-out there at the end.”

The Eagles remain on top in the SAC-7 with a 7-2 record and are 15-4 overall. East Bladen will visit Fairmont Friday night. West Bladen improves to 5-3 in the SAC-7 and are 14-6 overall. The Knights travel to Fairmont Wednesday night.

Nixon stuffed in a transition dunk and Bolden connected on a 3-ball to give the Eagles a 41-33 lead at the 3rd quarter break. Pait banked in a 3-point shot, was fouled and tacked on the free throw for a 4-point play that sliced the margin to 41-37.

Lewis muscled in a pair of follow shots – the 2nd one off a Bolden out-of-bounds save – to push the lead back to 45-37. Pait answered with a 3-ball, McCall banked in a follow, Williams spun for a hook shot, and Pait capped the 10-0 run with another 3-ball for a 47-45 West lead with 1:53 remaining.

Collins darted through the lane and hurled in a bank shot to knot the score 47-47 with 1:27 left. The Knights milked the clock down to the closing seconds but a turnover gave the Eagles a chance with 2.5 seconds left. However, a half-court shot missed.

Bolden opened the overtime with a driving lay-up, but Williams flipped in a 4-footer to tie the game 49-49. After East missed 2 foul shots, Pait nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing for a 52-49 West lead. Following a missed Knight free throw, Bolden knocked down a long 3-pointer to tie the game again at the 1:20 mark.

Both teams suffered turnovers prior to the missed West free throw with 4 seconds on the clock. One follow shot missed before McCall banked in the game-winner.

“It was a heck of a game,” noted Coach Pait. “What was the streak now 8 in a row? I learned back in those lean years (2020 and 2021) to take the time and enjoy the wins, and I am really going to enjoy this one – and in a rivalry game that is bigger. This win also assures us of a winning record- no matter what happens the rest of the way. We came close last year (12-14).”

McCall threw in a runner to start the scoring, and Williams hooked in a basket then put back a rebound. Collins and Bolden popped in short runners for East, before Pait delivered his 1st 3-ball for a 9-4 lead. Lewis banged in a rebound, but a McCall 12-footer from the elbow made it 11-6.

Collins floated in an 8-footer, and sophomore Rodney Lacewell powered in a lay-up. After a Williams free throw, Nixon drilled in a corner 3-ball for a 13-12 Eagle lead at the quarter break.

Nixon started the 2nd period with another 3-ball, but Williams drove for a lay-up, and Pait swished a 3-ball from the volleyball line for a 17-16 West lead. Collins sandwiched a pair of 12-footers around a Williams follow shot for West, and Bolden turned a steal into a lay-up and a 22-19 East lead.

Williams hooked in an 8-footer, and McCall buried a corner 3-ball for a 24-22 Knight lead. Nixon’s baseline jumper tied the game. Pait rattled in a baseline runner, but a Lewis lay-up tied the game 26-26 at halftime.

Nixon sank 2 free throws to start the 2nd half, but Adams pumped in a 12-footer to knot the score 28-28. Lewis powered in 2 follow shots, and Malaki Monroe canned a corner jumper for a 34-28 Eagle lead.

Williams twisted his way through traffic for a lay-up, but Collins scooped in an Eagle lay-up. Pait fired in another corner 3-ball to close the gap to 36-33 with 2:28 on the 3rd period clock.

East Bladen    13  13  15    6  5 – 52
West Bladen  12  14    7  14  7 – 54

East Bladen (52) – Dominick Collins 12, Malcolm Bolden 12, Malaki Monroe 2, Lee Barnes, Yontee Dobson, Jacob Nixon 12, Zamar Lewis 12, Rodney Lacewell 2.

West Bladen (54) – Jackson Pait 24, Hezekiah Adams 2, Tylik McCall 11, Andre Moore, Gary Parker, Walter Bealon, Anthony Mitchell, Chase Williams 17.

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