Photos by Kenneth Armstrong
RICHLANDS – East Bladen’s Lady Eagles overcame a 16-point deficit to force overtime, but foul trouble and missed free throws proved costly as Richlands advanced with a 93-82 victory in the third round of the NCHSAA Class 2A Girls Basketball Play-offs.
Freshman Arianna Hamilton’s lay-up gave the Lady Wildcats a 55-39 lead with 1:22 left in the third quarter.
Senior Shardajah Brown fired in a 3-point shot, junior Erica McKoy turned an Ashley Hardin in-bounds pass into a lay-up, and junior Ja’Tyra Moore-Peterson popped in a 15-footer to trim the Richlands lead to 57-46 at the quarter break.
Moore-Peterson sank two free throws, and sophmore Patience Ward put back a rebound then turned an assist from McKoy into a lay-up. Kamryn Devita’s 3-point bomb kept the Lady Wildcat lead at 62-52.
Moore-Peterson drilled in a 3-pointer, hit a free throw and muscled in a rebound, but Kiki Kornegay’s lay-up kept Richlands ahead 67-58 with 3:49 on the clock.
McKoy banked in a 16-footer, Ward flipped in a 4-footer then converted a McKoy assist into a lay-up. A McKoy free throw sliced the lead to 69-65 with 2:39 remaining.
Richlands’ Corryn Barnes put back a rebound basket, but Moore-Peterson nailed a 3-pointer to keep East within 72-68. However the Lady Eagles lost Ward to fouls with 2:02 left. A Morgan Ervin lay-up and Devita free throw padded the margin to 75-69 at the 1:53 mark.
Moore-Peterson connected from 10 feet, and McKoy pulled up for a 12-footer. Two rebounds by Brown kept the possession for East until Moore-Peterson grabbed a rebound and flipped in a runner to tie the game 75-75 with 38 seconds remaining.
The Lady Wildcats missed two shots at the game-winner in the final 14 seconds.
Freshman Katie Evans knocked down 2 free throws with 3:28 left in overtime to give East Bladen their only lead of the second half at 77-76. Barnes answered with a lay-up, and Ervin dropped in a turn-around.
After East missed 2 free throws, a Barnes lay-up made it 82-77. Moore-Peterson threw in a 16-footer to keep East within 82-79, but Ervin answered with a follow shot. East failed to cash in at the foulline and Devita bombed in a 3-ball for an 87-79 lead.
McKoy’s driving lay-up pulled East to within 87-81 with 1:08 on the clock, but Richlands salted the game away at the foulline, hitting 5 of 6 in the overtime. For the game the Lady Wildcats made 20 of 38 free throws, while East Bladen made only 12 of 28 (3 of 9 in overtime).
“We got into a lot of foul trouble and we didn’t make free throws when we needed to in overtime,” said East Bladen Coach Patty Evers. “But I am proud of these girls. They had a great season. I don’t think too many people thought that we would get this far.”
Senior Shardajah Brown posted a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds in her final game at East Bladen. “Shar took it on her shoulders tonight and showed what a senior leader she was,” said Coach Evers. Brown scored 18 points in the first half.
Moore-Peterson racked up 21 points, 3 assists and 3 steals before fouling out in overtime. McKoy was plagued by four first-half fouls but managed to stay in the game and contribute 14 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists.
Ward recorded 16 points, 9 steals and 7 rebounds before exiting due to fouls. Hardin filled up the stat sheet with 6 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. Hardin and sophmore Lorna Mendell also played a good part of the second half with four fouls each.
Ervin who was listed at 5-9 but seemed even in height with the 6-2 Mendell worked the interior for 30 points to lead the Lady Wildcats. Kornegay poured in 26 points, Barnes scored 16 points, and Devita followed with 13 points.
“That is a really good team,” noted Coach Evers. “We couldn’t stop that 24 (Kornegay) and 10 (Devita) hit some really big shots. Poor shooting in the first half really hurt us.”
Brown powered in a couple of rebound baskets, drained a pair of 3-point shots from the right wing, and pumped in a 14-footer as the Lady Eagles built a 12-10 first quarter lead.
McKoy hurled in a baseline jumper, and Hardin buried a 3-point shot to put East up 17-15 at the quarter break. Nine inside points from Ervin kept Richlands close.
McKoy turned a Moore-Peterson assist into a lay-up, and Brown scored on a follow shot for a 21-17 East lead. Ward stole the ball and raced for a lay-up, and Moore-Peterson drove for a lay-up and a 25-19 Lady Eagle lead with 5:32 left in the second quarter.
Richlands tied the game on baskets by Ervin, Devita and Kornegay, but Ward canned a free throw, and Brown tossed in a 10-footer off of a Mendell assist to keep East up 28-25.
Four points each from Kornegay and Barnes keyed a 13-4 spurt that closed the half and vaulted the Lady Wildcats ahead 38-32. The Lady Wildcats scored the first six points of the second half to bump their lead to 44-32.
Ward cashed in 2 free throws, and Brown converted a Hardin assist into a lay-up. A driving lay-up by Moore-Peterson whittled the margin to 45-38, but Barnes led a 10-1 Richlands run with a pair of baskets.
Richlands advances to play top-seeded Kinston. East Bladen finished the season with the Three Rivers Conference regular-season and tournament championships and posted a 27-2 record.
EAST BLADEN (82) – Katie Evans 2, Erica McKoy 14, Kaley Smith, Izzy Smith, Shardajah Brown 23, Anna Kate White, Patience Ward 16, Ashley Hardin 6, Ja’Tyra Moore-Peterson 21, Lorna Mendell.