04/16/2024
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By John Clark

BLADENBORO — Eastern Wayne’s Warriors would not go away Tuesday night. The Warriors sliced an 18-point West Bladen lead to 4 with a 20-6 surge, but the No. 3 seeded Knights came up with key plays in the final 5:17 to post a 57-44 victory over the No. 30 Warriors in the opening round of the Class 2A Basketball playoffs.

Coach Travis Pait’s Knights improved to 24-1 and will host Southeastern Athletic Conference co-champion Fairmont (20-5) Friday night. The Tornadoes are the No. 14 seed and a 60-47 victor over Granville Central in their playoff opener. The Knights and Tornadoes split during conference play with both claiming home court wins.

A pair of baskets from Warrior sophomore Charlie Thomas whittled a 33-15 West lead to 33-19 at halftime. Thomas drove for a pair of lay-ups in the 3rd period, and junior Zavion Burden bombed in a 3-point shot. Sophomore Jackson Pait drained a pair of 3-point shots to keep West up 39-28 at the quarter break.

Burden and sophomore Izeiah Oates started the 4th quarter with 3-balls, and junior Jquarius Carr’s free throw pulled Eastern Wayne to within 39-35 at the 5:42 mark. Knight senior Andre Moore fired in a 3-pointer to boost the lead to 42-35, but Thomas responded with a 3-ball to slice the margin to 42-38.

Junior Chase Williams banked in a 4-footer off an assist from junior Hezekiah Adams then tacked on the free throw for a 45-38 lead. Burden banked in a runner for Eastern, but sophomore Tylik McCall drained a 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 47-40. Adams then stole a pass and raced for a lay-up that ended with a 3-point play and a 50-40 Knight lead at the 2:27 mark.

Williams banked in a short jumper then nailed 2 free throws for a 54-42 lead. Pait connected on 3 of 4 free throws in the final 26 seconds to seal the verdict.

Williams sparked the Knight attack with 21 points, 7 rebounds, 6 blocked shots and 2 assists. Adams finished with 16 points, 4 assists. 3 rebounds and 2 steals. Pait swished a trio of 3-point shots and contributed 12 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals. Moore distributed 4 assists and had 3 rebounds. Junior Ty’Leak Ballard grabbed 3 rebounds.

“We made some mistakes defensively, but they made some shots we didn’t think they would,” said Coach Pait. “I thought we played very good in the first half. We moved the ball well on offense and got the shots we wanted. That was a very big 3-pointer that Andre made.”

Williams spun to the rim and scored on the up-and-under move to start the game then hammered in a dunk off of an Adams assist. Williams drove for a lay-up, flipped in a jump-hook from the baseline, spun thru traffic for another lay-up then scored in transition for a 12-9 West lead. Pait delivered an assist to Adams for a lay-up that resulted in a 3-point play and a 15-9 lead.

Pait lobbed a pass to Williams who slammed in a dunk on the Alley-Oop play to begin the 2nd period. Adams sped to the rim for a transition lay-up, and Williams canned a foul shot. Pait and Moore delivered assists to Adams and Williams for lay-ups and a 24-11 Knight lead.

Another Pait pass to Adams produced another lay-up, and Adams turned another steal into a lay-up. Pait knocked down another 3-point shot, and Adams swiped the ball again and darted to the rim for a lay-up and a 33-15 lead.

Thomas headed the Warrior scoring list with 15 points. Oates followed with 12 points, and Burden netted 9 points.

“That was a tough opening game. They are a young team, but they are very good,” said Coach Pait. “I will take that No. 20 (Thomas) on my team any day. He can play.”

Eastern Wayne  9  10  9  16 — 44
West Bladen     15  18  6  18 — 57

Eastern Wayne (44) — Zavion Burden 9, NyQuan Smith, Izeiah Oates 12, Bobby Tann 2, Tavorus Dunn, Charlie Thomas 15, Jaelin Langley 2, Jquarius Carr 4, Zi’Yell Bingham.

West Bladen (57) — Jackson Pait 12, Hezekiah Adams 16, Tylik McCall 5, Kendell Lessane, Andre Moore 3, Cornelius Esters, Ty’Leak Ballard, Chase Williams 21.

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