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By John Clark

BLADENBORO – Sophomores Iveonna “NeNe” Ward and Laila Smith combined for 52 points Monday night to lead East Bladen to a 70-29 Southeastern Athletic Conference girls’ basketball victory over West Bladen.

Ward fired in 15 of her 27 points in the 2nd half and was credited with 4 steals. Laila Smith rang up 21 of her 25 points in the 1st half and also contributed 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. Senior Maegan Burney added 6 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.

Senior AnnaGrey Heustess racked up 6 rebounds, 4 blocked shots, 2 steals and dished out 5 assists. Freshman Ariel Cromartie tallied 5 points. Junior Zoe Smith grabbed 4 rebounds, senior Karli Priest had 3 steals and senior Brianna Phillips had 2 steals and 2 assists.

“Laila and ‘NeNe’ had big games,” said Lady Eagle Coach Patty Evers. “The girls played hard. It was nice to see some shots fall.”

Senior Lainey Autry bombed in a trio of 3-point shots and led the Lady Knights with 11 points. Senior Rylee Chadwick finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds. Sophomore Alina Chavez captured 5 rebounds. Junior Brookee Singletary pulled down 3 rebounds, and freshman Kali Allen had 3 rebounds and 2 steals.

“Laila is a big match-up problem for us. She is tough to deal with,” said West Bladen Coach Brian McCleney. “I was glad we were able to get Megan (Pait) back (from injury). We tried to get the younger girls some playing time and experience in the 4th quarter.”

Laila Smith stole the ball twice and raced for lay-ups then added another transition lay-up in the game’s first 4 minutes. Burney canned a free throw for a 7-0 Lady Eagle lead, before Autry swished a corner 3-ball for West Bladen. Autry turned a Chadwick assist into a lay-up, but Ward made a free throw then nailed a 3-point shot for East. A Chavez free throw kept West within 11-6 at the quarter break.

The Laila Smith barrage continued in the 2nd period as the Lady Eagle star threw in 2 lay-ups, a runner, an 8-footer and 2 free throws. Ward connected on another 3-ball to stretch the lead to 24-6. Chadwick beat the press for a lay-up, and Autry nailed another 3-ball.

Laila Smith and Chadwick traded free throws, and Laila Smith banged in another lay-up, before Autry knocked down another corner 3-ball, and Chadwick hit a free throw to close the gap to 27-16. A Zoe Smith assist produced a Laila Smith lay-up, Burney made a free throw, and Ward stole the ball and dashed for a lay-up and a 32-16 East lead.

Sophomore Holland Davis fired in a 3-pointer for West, but Ward closed the half with a free throw and a lay-up for a 35-19 Lady Eagle advantage.

Two lay-ups by Ward, 2 lay-ups by Burney and 1 by Laila Smith keyed a 10-1 East run that began the 2nd half. Ward buried a 3-ball, converted a steal into a lay-up then added another lay-up for a 52-21 Lady Eagle lead.

Chadwick sank 2 free throws, popped in a 10-footer then drove for a lay-up. Singletary netted a lay-up, but Zoe Smith and Cromartie answered with lay-ups for East that extended the lead to 56-27.

Ward turned 2 steals into lay-ups, and Laila Smith powered in a lay-up to start the final period. Freshman Natalie Sykes tossed in a 15-footer for West, but Zoe Smith cashed in a free throw, and freshman Niyah Wooten, Cromartie and Phillips dropped in lay-ups. A Cromartie free throw accounted for the final margin.

The Lady Eagles, now 6-3 in SAC-7 play and 14-5 overall, will travel to Fairmont Friday night. West Bladen, now 1-7 in the league and 8-9 overall, will go to Fairmont Wednesday night.

East Bladen  11  24  21  14 – 70
West Bladen  6  13    8    2 – 29

East Bladen (70) – Iveonna “NeNe” Ward 27, Martha Simmons, Ariel Cromartie 5, Cabria Baldwin, AnnaGrey Heustess, Karli Priest, Zoe Smith 3, Maegan Burney 6, Laila Smith 25, Nia McKoy, Brianna Phillips 2, Niyah Wooten 2.

West Bladen (29) – Lainey Autry 11, Megan Pait, Holland Davis 3, Rylee Chadwick 10, Faith Wren, Kirsten Warrick, Brookee Singletary 2, Kiera Lewis, Natalee Sykes 2, Kali Allen, Jahyrah Priest, Alina Chavez 1.

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