East Bladen High School
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BEAUFORT – East Bladen’s Lady Eagles raced to leads of 21-10 and 41-18, then had to withstand a furious East Carteret 4th quarter rally to claim a 67-58 2nd round victory in the NCHSAA Class 2A Girls Basketball Playoffs Thursday night.

Coach Patty Evers’ Lady Eagles, the No. 13 Eastern seed, improved to 25-3 and will travel to La Grange Saturday to play No. 5 seed North Lenoir (23-4) in the 3rd round. Senior Ashanti Lynch scored 47 points to lead the Lady Hawks to a 74-60 2nd round victory over Elizabeth City Northeastern.

Junior AnnaGrey Heustess and freshman Laila Smith sparked the Lady Eagles to their early lead. Heustess drained her 1st five 3-point shots. Her 3rd 3-ball snapped a 6-6 tie and ignited an 11-0 East Bladen run. Laila Smith powered her way through 2 defenders and banged in a 6-footer then tacked on a free throw.

Heustess connected on another 3-ball from the right wing, and Laila Smith put back a rebound to push the lead to 17-6. East Carteret sophomore Tanzania Locklear pulled up for a 10-footer, and junior Sydney Roberson’s lay-up off of an in-bounds pass trimmed the margin to 17-10.

Laila Smith canned 2 free throws, and senior Alexus Mitchell blocked a Lady Mariner shot then hurled a long pass to junior Maegan Burney for a buzzer-beating lay-up that stretched the Lady Eagle lead to 21-10 at the quarter break.

Senior Maya McDonald and Burney delivered assists to freshman Iveonna “NeNe” Ward and Mitchell for lay-ups that grew the lead to 25-12. McDonald muscled in a follow shot, and Laila Smith’s rebound basket began a 12-0 Lady Eagle spurt.

Ward bombed in a 3-pointer, before Laila Smith banked in a pair of turn-around shots – the 2nd one was a spectacular heave from 12 feet out as she fell to the floor. Heustess delivered her 5th 3-ball of the half, and Mitchell sank 2 free throws to boost the halftime lead to 41-18.

McDonald used her strength and quickness to pull down a whopping 24 rebounds in the game – 12 in each half – to lead East Bladen to a 46-30 advantage over East Carteret on the bounds.

Locklear threw in 3 baskets, and Roberson and Kendalyn Dixon pumped in 3-point shots during a 12-4 Lady Mariner rally that began the 2nd half and closed the gap to 45-30. A pair of McDonald lay-ups provided the Lady Eagle points.

Heustess’ follow shot and 4 straight Mitchell free throws kicked off a 12-5 Lady Eagle spurt. Burney worked free for 2 lay-ups – one off of a Laila Smith assist – and dropped in a rebound basket as the East Bladen lead grew to 57-35.

Locklear answered with a pair of 3-point baskets that closed the period and started a 19-3 East Carteret run. Heustess sent a pass to Burney for a lay-up then added a free throw to interrupt the run, before Locklear attacked the paint for 8 more points and Roberson and Kenliana Dixon netted 2 free throws each as the lead was cut to 60-54 with 2:37 on the clock.

Mitchell made 2 big free throws at the 2:18 mark then converted another one with 1:39 on the clock. Locklear rallied the Lady Mariners with 2 free throws, then flipped in a runner that whittled the lead to 64-58 with 24 seconds remaining.

Mitchell knocked down 2 more free throws with 22 seconds left, and Heustess grabbed a defensive rebound and tacked on a free throw with 13 seconds left.

Heustess led the Lady Eagle scoring with 19 points and collected 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 assists. Mitchell converted 11 of 14 free throws and totaled 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. Laila Smith scored all 13 of her points in the 1st half and had 5 rebounds and 3 assists.

Burney contributed 10 points and 6 rebounds. McDonald tallied 6 points, 5 assists and 2 steals to go with the 24 rebounds. Ward posted 6 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals.

Locklear racked up 27 of her 35 points for the Lady Mariners in the 2nd half and grabbed 8 rebounds. Roberson followed with 13 points and 9 rebounds. East Carteret, the No. 4 seed in the East, finished the season with a 17-3 record.

East Bladen       21    20    16    10 -67
East Carteret    10      8     20    20 -58

East Bladen (67) – Iveonna Ward 6, Maya McDonald 6, Alexus Mitchell 13, AnnaGrey Heustess 19, Karli Priest, Zoe Smith, Maegan Burney 10, Laila Smith 13.

East Carteret (58) – Kendalyn Dixon 4, Kenliana Dixon 4, Tanzania Locklear 35, Sydney Roberson 13, Hailey Grady 2, Samantha Mason, Jamaya Shelton, Sarah Walker, Camdyn Ensminger.