09/30/2022
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By Sonny Jones

Yes, it’s putting the cart ahead of the horse, but a fourth matchup this season between the East Bladen girls and St. Pauls is possible in the fourth round of the NCHSAA 2-A basketball playoffs.

Of course, to get that game both teams will have to win Saturday in the third round. East Bladen (25-3) will be in LaGrange against North Lenoir (23-4). St. Pauls (25-1), the top seeded team in the East, will play at home against Whiteville (19-7).

St. Pauls has given East Bladen its three losses this season. The Bulldogs won 59-48 on Jan. 14 in St. Pauls, beat the Eagles 60-41 on Feb. 4 at East Bladen, and won the Southeastern Athletic Conference tournament championship 59-28 on Feb. 18 in Red Springs.

If both teams win Saturday, East Bladen would play at St. Pauls on Tuesday, March 1. We’ll know late Saturday night whether the teams will meet a fourth time this season.

But, first things first, both teams have to win their third-round games Saturday. East Bladen will have to contain North Lenoir’s Ashanti Lynch, who scored 47 in the Hawks’ 74-60 win Thursday against Elizabeth City Northeastern. St. Pauls will have to fend off a Whiteville team that hasn’t lost since the calendar flipped to 2022.

A fourth matchup between the Eagles and Bulldogs looms in the playoffs’ fourth-round … maybe

St. Pauls is one of five schools with both its boys and girls basketball teams playing at home Saturday in third-round playoff games. The others are Apex Friendship, Greensboro Smith, Farmville Central and Wilson Prep. Research courtesy of The Robesonian’s Chris Stiles.

The East Bladen girls are among 11 teams seeded 13th or lower that have advanced to the third round of the playoffs. East Bladen entered the state playoffs as No. 13 seed in the East in the 2-A playoffs. Other girls teams in the group are Burlington Williams (14 in 3-A), Enka (19 in 3-A) and Starmount (22 in 1-A). Boys teams remaining in the field are North Rowan (14 in 1-A), Forbush (14 in 2-A), Panther Creek (15 in 4-A), North Iredell (16 in 3-A), Mount Tabor (18 in 4-A), Northern Guilford (19 in 4-A) and North Lincoln (20 in 3-A).

SATURDAY’S PICK TO CLICK

Armando Bacot with a double-double and Brady Manek with a handful of 3-pointers for North Carolina in its game at N.C. State. The Tar Heels have won 34 of the last 39 games and 51 of the last 63 against the Wolfpack. Doesn’t make for much of a rivalry in a game between rivals.

FRIDAY’S PICK: The Carolina Hurricanes to beat Columbus, Sebastian Aho to score two goals and Frederik Anderson stingy in net. Result: The Hurricanes won 4-0, Aho didn’t score and Anderson made 18 saves in posting his third shutout of the season.

Sonny Jones can be reached at wibbyj@gmail.com.