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By John Clark

ELIZABETHTOWN – Junior guard Iveonna “NeNe” Ward poured in 28 points and East Bladen’s pressure defense racked up 24 steals as the Lady Eagles avenged last week’s loss with a 63-27 non-conference girls’ basketball victory over Purnell Swett Wednesday night.

The Lady Rams posted a 46-39 victory over East Friday night at Pembroke, but the Lady Eagle pressure forced 25 1st half turnovers while building a 42-19 lead.

“I went back to my old Tar Heel ways,” said East Bladen Coach Patty Evers. “I dug out an old press that we used when I was at Tar Heel, and it has definitely worked.” The Lady Eagles forced numerous turnovers in Tuesday’s 54-34 win over West Bladen.

Ward nailed a trio of 3-point shots and scored 17 points before halftime. The speedy point guard also collected 6 steals and 4 rebounds. Sophomore Ariel Cromartie fired in 14 points and contributed 5 steals and 5 rebounds.

Junior Laila Smith filled up the stat columns with 10 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals and 2 assists. Sophomore Niyah Wooten collected 8 rebounds, 6 steals and 2 assists. Senior Zoe Smith grabbed 4 rebounds.

“Ariel had a great game tonight, and Niyah played hard,” noted Evers.

Senior center Niyah Locklear accounted for most of the Lady Ram attack with 17 points and 8 rebounds.

Ward dropped in a lay-up off the opening tap then stole the ball and flipped in a lay-up. Cromartie tossed in a free throw then sent an assist to Wooten for a basket and a 7-0 lead. Locklear answered with a pair of inside baskets, before sophomore Cabria Baldwin hit a free throw, and Laila Smith raced end-to-end for a 3-point play and an 11-4 lead.

Ward drained 3-point shots from each corner, and Cromartie buried a 17-footer. Nia McKoy put back a rebound, and Ward turned a steal into a lay-up for a 23-11 East lead at the quarter break.

Laila Smith and Baldwin made free throws, and Ward dashed for a lay-up off a turnover then delivered a 3-ball from the top of the key. Cromartie swished a long 2-pointer then netted a lay-up off a Laila Smith assist. Wooten sent an assist to Zoe Smith for a lay-up, Laila Smith cashed in 3 free throws, and Cromartie added 2 foul shots for a 42-19 halftime lead.

Cromartie bombed in a corner 3-ball to begin the 3rd quarter. Ward then rang up 5 consecutive lay-ups and a free throw to stretch the lead to 56-19. Laila Smith and Wooten assisted on 2 of the baskets, and steals led to 2 of the lay-ups.

Laila Smith banged in a rebound that resulted in a 3-point play, and Cromartie added the lay-up that pushed the margin to 61-21 with 2:38 left in the 3rd period and started the mercy rule running clock.

Freshmen Nevaeh Brown and Tatum Allen sank free throws in the final quarter for the Lady Eagles.

East Bladen improved to 5-1 and will host West Brunswick Friday night. Purnell Swett drops to 1-2 and will host Kannapolis Brown Friday night.

Purnell Swett   11    8   2  6 — 27
East Bladen     23  19  19  2 — 63

Purnell Swett (27) — Kamryn Locklear, Briannon Brewington, Adisyn Bland 3,Jayda Dial, Alexis Locklear, Terra Bullard, Josie McLean 4, True Ellerbee 2, Kayloni Eddings, Niyah Locklear 17, Caley L. 1.

East Bladen (63) — Iveonna “NeNe” Ward 28, Nevaeh Brown 1, Aaliyah Monroe, Ariel Cromartie 14, Cabria Baldwin 2, Tyliah Freeman, Tatum Allen 1, Zoe Smith 3, Taylor Dowless, Laila Smith 10, Nia McKoy 2, Niyah Wooten 2.

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