Photos by Kenneth Armstrong
FAIRMONT – An 18-0 second-quarter spurt propelled East Bladen to a 63-38 victory over West Bladen in the semi-finals of the Three Rivers Conference girls basketball tournament.
Junior Seniah Johnson drained a 3-point shot that capped a 10-2 run and gave the Lady Knights a 19-11 lead 4:12 before halftime. Senior Erica McKoy then flipped in a baseline jumper off of an Ashley Hardin assist to start the Lady Eagle rally.
Senior Ja’Tyra Moore-Peterson banked in a runner then drilled in a 3-point shot. Freshman Maya McDonald sank 2 free throws, and McKoy turned a steal into a lay-up.
A McKoy assist produced a McDonald lay-up, McDonald banked in a 6-footer, and Moore-Peterson nailed a 3-point shot for a 29-19 lead. Lady Knight junior Kasee Singletary hurled in a 16-footer to trim the margin to 29-21 at halftime.
“We made some mistakes,” said West Bladen Coach Brian McCleney. “Our ballhandling mistakes led to that big spurt, but our effort was a lot better than last week.”
Moore-Peterson buried another 3-ball, and McKoy hit a free throw to begin the second half. Singletary and Moore-Peterson traded free throws, before Hardin knocked down a 3-pointer and a long 2-pointer for a 39-22 lead.
Junior Patience Ward stole the ball and raced for a lay-up then pitched ahead to Moore-Peterson for another lay-up. Johnson sandwiched 2 free throws and a lay-up around a McDonald follow shot.
Moore-Peterson pumped in a 16-footer, and senior Anna Kate White put back a rebound for a 49-26 Lady Eagle lead at the quarter break.
Ward dropped in a follow, and McKoy scored in transition, before West junior Mikayla Meadows made 2 free throws, and Singletary hit a free throw and banked in a 3-ball to cut the margin to 53-32.
After a McKoy free throw and a Moore-Peterson follow, Meadows made a free throw, and Johnson trimmed the margin to 56-36 with a 3-ball. McDonald netted a lay-up, and Lily Lin converted a White assist into a lay-up then added a free throw.
East’s Abbie Cross canned a 16-footer, and West’s Essance Murphy banked in a 15-footer.
Moore-Peterson led all scorers with 22 points, and McDonald contributed 12 points. Ward racked up 8 points, 7 rebounds and 5 steals. McKoy finished with 8 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals. Hardin added 6 points, and junior Lorna Mendell had 4 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.
“Survive and advance,” said Lady Eagle Coach Patty Evers. The Lady Eagles improved to 25-1 and will play Thursday’s Whiteville/St. Pauls winner in the tourney championship game Friday at 6 p.m.
Singletary and Johnson shared scoring honors for the Lady Knights with 12 points each. Singletary also grabbed 5 rebounds. Freshman Hannah Pait finished with 4 points and 4 rebounds.
Moore-Peterson popped in a turn-around, and Ward hit a free throw for East to start the game. A Singletary assist resulted in a lay-up for Jessica Labra. After another Ward free throw, freshman Haley George banked in a 3-pointer to edge West in front 5-4.
Johnson tossed in a one-handed runner, but McDonald answered from the baseline. Singletary drove for a lay-up and a 9-6 lead. Hardin hit a free throw, and Ward tied the game 9-9 with a follow.
Pait snapped the tie with a rebound bucket, and Singletary tacked on a free throw for a 12-9 West lead at the quarter break.
Singletary split two defenders for a lay-up to start the second period. A Hardin assist led to Moore-Peterson’s lay-up, but Singletary assisted on a Pait lay-up, and Johnson’s 3-ball upped the count to 19-11.
“We took care of the ball better in that opening run,” said Coach McCleney. “Seniah made some plays in the middle of that zone both for herself and for her teammates.”
McCleney continued, “ Patty has a tremendous team, and I have a lot of respect for them. I am proud of my team. They did everything I asked them to do tonight. Three of them didn’t come out of the game tonight, and they were running on fumes at the end.”
West Bladen is now 15-10 and will have to wait until Saturday to see if they will get a bid to the state play-offs. “We were in most of the projections until last week, but one of our games was wrong in MaxPreps,” said McCleney. “I would like for these girls to get a chance to go just for the experience.”
West Bladen 12 9 5 12 – 38
East Bladen 9 20 20 14 – 63
WEST BLADEN (38) – Haley George 3, Tatiana Hunt, Kasee Singletary 12, Seniah Johnson 12, Mikayla Meadows 3, Essance Murphy 2, Hannah Pait 4, Romona Whitaker, Jessica Labra 2.
EAST BLADEN (63) – Katie Evans, Erica McKoy 8, Lily Lin 3, Maya McDonald 12, Anna Kate White 2, Abbie Cross 2, Kabarah Moore, Patience Ward 8, Ashley Hardin 6, Ja’Tyra Moore-Peterson 22, Lorna Mendell.