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By John Clark

ELIZABETHTOWN — East Bladen Coach Patty Evers was worried all day Friday but not about her potential 600th career win. “I was worried about defeating Pender and staying tied for 1st place in the conference,” she shared. “They played us a 7-point game over there and we need to win these last 3 games to stay tied for 1st.”

The Lady Eagles accomplished both tasks Friday night finishing the final 2:27 of the 1st quarter with a 12-0 run that propelled them to a 67-41 victory and kept East tied for 1st while securing Coach Evers’ 600th win – 526 of those wins have come at East Bladen.

East Bladen improved to 8-1 in Waccamaw Conference play and 16-3 overall. The Lady Eagles will travel to West Columbus Tuesday night.

Junior guard Iveonna “NeNe” Ward fired in 25 points and keyed the Lady Eagle defense with 7 steals. Junior Laila Smith just missed a double-double with 17 points, 9 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 assists. Sophomore Ariel Cromartie tossed in 12 points.

Senior Zoe Smith buried a pair of 3-point shots for 6 points and had 3 rebounds. Freshman Taylor Dowless and sophomore Niyah Wooten grabbed 3 rebounds each, and sophomore Cabria Baldwin had 2 steals.

Ward raced to the rim for a lay-up off the opening tap, and Laila Smith hit a free throw then put back a rebound for a 5-2 lead. Pender’s Linde Cline banked in a 3-point shot to knot the score 5-5.

Ward sank a free throw then nailed a pair of 3-point shots. Cromartie knocked in a corner 3-ball, and Ward stole the ball and dashed for a lay-up and a 17-5 East lead at the quarter break.

Laila Smith took charge in the 2nd quarter. Her transition lay-up resulted in a 3-point play and a 20-5 lead. Laila Smith delivered an assist to Cromartie for a lay-up, bombed in a 3-point shot then drove for another 3-point play and a 28-9 East lead.

Zoe Smith swished a 3-point shot. Ward raced end-to-end for a lay-up, hit a free throw and sent an assist to Cromartie for a lay-up. Laila Smith powered in a follow for a 38-13 halftime lead.

“The team came out ready to play tonight,” said Evers. “I was really impressed with the defense. We had put a new defense in. We like to get up close and pressure people. I was proud of them. This is such a good group to coach.”

Ward drained a corner 3-ball to begin the 2nd half. Freshman Taylor Dowless scored on a follow shot, and Baldwin stole the ball and sprinted for a lay-up. Laila Smith canned a free throw then put back a rebound. Zoe Smith and Cromartie drilled in 3-point shots, and a Laila Smith assist led to a Wooten lay-up and a 56-19 lead.

Ward attacked the basket for 4-lay-ups – 2 of them off her own steals – in the final period. Cromartie popped in a baseline jumper, and freshman Nevaeh Brown added a free throw.

Senior guard Jamiah Johnson provided the bulk of the Pender offense scoring 26 points on a pair of 3-balls, 7 other baskets and 6 free throws.

Pender              5   8  11  17 — 41
East Bladen  17  21  18  11 — 67

Pender (41) — Olivia White, Jamiah Johnson 26, Shamiah Johnson 4, Kimora McAllister, Grace Bordeaux, Charleigh Rivenbark 4, Linde Cline 3, Jayda Tozour 4, Zyiah Williams, Kenyatta Jacobs, Erica Parker, Jensen Bordeaux.

East Bladen (67) — Iveonna “NeNe” Ward 25, Nevaeh Brown 1, Aaliyah Monroe, Ariel Cromartie 12, Cabria Baldwin 2, Tyliah Freeman, Tatum Allen, Zoe Smith 6, Taylor Dowless 2, Laila Smith 17, Nia McKoy, Niyah Wooten 2.

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