All season long West Bladen Coach Rick Rhoda had preached to his girls to play tough man-to-man pressure defense and that good things were coming.
In the opening round of the conference tournament, all their work came to fruitition as the Lady Knights defeated Midway 43-39. The Lady Raiders had beaten the Lady Knights by over 20 points in each of their regular season meetings.
Junior Akira Grimes nailed a jumper from the lane to break a 39-39 tie, and junior Laikyn Pait sank the clinching free throws. Pait and junior Logan Autry grabbed 8 rebounds each to help secure the win.
“I have never seen my girls so fired up,” said Coach Rhoda. “We played tough defense, and my girls got up into them and really had them rattled.”
The Lady Knights posted their first win of the season 29-17 at West Columbus. A 14-2 fourth quarter spurt propelled West Bladen to the victory.
Pait poured in 18 points in the Four County Conference opening victory 41-33 over Union.
The signature win of the season was the 62-56 three overtime thriller over Pender. Pait blistered the nets for 31 pts and hauled in 15 rebounds.
“I told Laikyn it was time for her to step up and take charge,” said Coach Rhoda. “She knocked down that first three-pointer and never looked back.”
Junior Alanna Ludlum scored 5 of West Bladen’s 7 points in the third overtime. “Alanna was clutch,” said Coach Rhoda. “She has tremendous resolve, and I know I can depend on her.”
“I have preached to the girls to fight to the end, and they did that tonight,” continued Rhoda. Junior center Jerena Purdie just missed a double-double against Pender with 9 points and 10 rebounds.
Pait fired in 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead West Bladen to a 62-50 victory over Union. Freshman guard Erika McKoy tallied 12 points and 5 rebounds against Union.
There were no seniors on the West Bladen team. Pait led the Lady Knights in scoring (12.2) and rebounds (8.6). Grimes contributed 4.5 points and 4 rebounds per game. Autry averaged 3.1 points and 4.2 rebounds.
McKoy added 4 points per game, and Purdie grabbed 5.7 rebounds and netted 3.1 points.
After the season-ending loss to East Bladen in the Four County semi-finals Rhoda said, “I told the girls that I was proud to be their coach. They have worked so hard to learn a completely different system this year. Everything has been different for them. They have handled it well and have learned to play man defense. They are going to be terrors next year.”Share: