02/28/2024
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By John Clark

PEMBROKE – East Bladen junior Iveonna “NeNe” Ward and Purnell Swett senior Niyah Locklear traded baskets throughout Friday night’s non-conference girls’ basketball battle, but in the final period Lady Ram sophomore Jayda Dial sank 4 key free throws to secure a 46-39 Swett victory.

The game featured 10 lead-changes and was tied twice. Ward fired in five 3-point shots and poured in 18 of her 25 points in the 1st half. Niyah Locklear, a tall center, powered in 7 1st half baskets and 5 baskets and 2 free throws after intermission to finish with a game-high 26 points.

A pair of Ward free throws pulled the Lady Eagles to within 35-34 at the 3rd quarter break. Sophomore Niyah Wooten tossed in a baseline 10-footer to keep East within 37-36, and senior Zoe Smith followed up her own shot and flipped in an 8-footer to pull the Lady Eagles within 39-38 with 4 minutes left.

However, Niyah Locklear muscled in a follow and added a free throw, and Dial connected on 4 of 6 free throws to pad the final margin.

Zoe Smith finished with 5 points for the Lady Eagles, sophomore Ariel Cromartie and Wooten followed with 4 points each. Junior Laila Smith did not play due to a violation of school rules.

Dial and Alexis Locklear tallied 6 points each for the Lady Rams, and Terra Bullard added 5 points.

Ward drained her 1st 3 shots of the game – all of them 3-pointers- then raced for a lay-up and an 11-8 lead. Niyah Locklear answered with a trio of lay-ups, before Ward stole the ball and banked in a runner to pull East within 14-13 at the quarter break.

Wooten dropped in a lay-up, and Ward turned a steal into a lay-up and a 17-16 Lady Eagle lead. Zoe Smith buried a 3-point shot to reclaim the lead at 20-18. After a pair of baskets by Alexis Locklear and Niyah Locklear, Ward came up with her 5th steal of the half and knocked down another 3-point shot to give East a 23-22 halftime lead.

Cromartie made 2 of 4 free throws to begin the 2nd half, and Ward popped in a 6-footer. Ward bombed in her 5th 3-pointer of the game to push the Lady Eagle lead to 30-26.

Niyah Locklear’s 3-point play cut it to 30-29, but Cromartie popped in an elbow jumper for a 32-29 East lead. Senior Briannon Brewington and sophomore Terra Bullard pumped in 3-point baskets for a 37-32 Swett lead.

It was the 1st loss of the season for the Lady Eagles, now 3-1, who will host West Bladen Tuesday night. The Lady Rams evened their record at 1-1 and will travel to East Bladen Wednesday night.

East Bladen     13  10  11    5 — 39
Purnell Swett  14   8  13  11 — 46

East Bladen (39) — Iveonna “NeNe” Ward 25, Nevaeh Brown, Aaliyah Monroe, Ariel Cromartie 4, Cabria Baldwin 1, Tatum Allen, Zoe Smith 5, Taylor Dowless, Nia McKoy, Niyah Wooten 4.

Purnell Swett (46) — Kamryn Locklear, Briannon Brewington 3, Jayda Dial 6, Alexis Locklear 6, Terra Bullard 5, Kayloni Eddings, Niyah Locklear 26.

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