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NCHSAA Class 2-A East Girls Sectional Final, Kinston 49, East Bladen 41

East Bladen’s Lady Eagles fought back from a 15-point lead to take the lead for the first time midway the final quarter, but Kinston answered with an 8-1 closing run to pull out a 49-41 victory in the NCHSAA Class 2-A play-offs.

Kinston took a 35-24 lead into the final period, but junior Lacey Suggs threw in a basket and a free throw to start the quarter.

After a Kinston basket, junior guard Abby Ward drained a 3-point shot to trim the Lady Viking lead to 37-30. Suggs and junior Christiana Cromartie scored baskets to whittle the lead to 37-34.

Suggs sank 2 free throws to bring East Bladen within a point, and senior Abbey Norris fired in 2 more foul shots to edge the Lady Eagles in front 38-37.

Back came the Lady Vikings who worked the ball inside to center Lydia Rivers who put Kinston back on top 39-38. Moments later the East Bladen hopes were dealt a severe blow as Suggs fouled out after scoring a game-high 26 points.

Kinston stretched the lead to 41-38, but a basket by Norris brought East back to within 41-40. The Lady Vikings then closed out the game with the 8-1 spurt.

A win would have sent Coach Patty Evers club into the Eastern Regionals at Fayetteville, but the Lady Eagles complete their season with a 26-1 record.

“These girls never give up,” said Coach Evers. “They are such a good group to work with, and they give everything they’ve got. What more can you ask for.”

Suggs also grabbed 6 rebounds. Cromartie tallied 6 points, and Norris finished with 5 points and 7 rebounds. Ward also grabbed 6 rebounds, and senior Imani Turner-Dobson blocked 11 shots.

Lydia Rivers in only her sixth game back after recovering from a knee injury paced the Kinston offense with 16 points. Guard Jada Faison added 11 points.

Rivers scored in the lane and put back two rebound baskets to spark the visitors to a 9-3 first quarter lead. Suggs made 3 free throws for the Lady Eagle points in the period.

Faison flipped in a runner and a corner jumper, and Rivers hit a short jumper to spark a 10-1 run that gave the Lady Vikings a 19-4 lead with 3 minutes left in the half.

Suggs keyed an 8-0 Lady Eagle rally by pumping in a 15-footer from the elbow and a 14-footer from the lane. The 5-10 junior then connected on 3 of 4 free throws.

Cromartie tacked on another free throw to close the gap to 19-12, but a Faison follow shot upped the Kinston lead to 22-12 at halftime.

The Lady Eagles only made 8 of 16 free throws in the first half and finished 16 for 32 at the line in the game. “Was it the lay-off,” pondered Coach Evers. “I don’t know, but we are a better shooting team than that.”

A Suggs lay-up kept East within 24-14 to begin the third quarter, before a pair of baskets by Dashieka Mason pushed the Kinston lead back to 28-14.

Turner-Dobson blocked a shot and hurled a full-court pass to Cromartie for a lay-in. Turner-Dobson cashed in a free throw, and Suggs drove for a lay-up and eventual 3-point play that trimmed the Kinston lead to 28-20.

Faison appeared to walk into a 3-point shot that banked in, then she banked in a runner to grow the Lady Viking lead back to 35-20.

Suggs drove for a lay-up, and Norris dropped in a transition lay-up that pulled East to within 35-24 at the quarter break.

“The girls played really hard,” said Coach Evers. “But it seemed that we were fighting back from 12 points down all night.”

EB (41) – Abby Ward 3, Lacey Suggs 26, Miller Heustess, Christiana Cromartie 6, Abbey Norris 5, Imani Turner-Dobson 1, Emily Scott.

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