Unbeaten East Bladen will open the Cumberland County Holiday Classic Thursday at 4 p.m. against host Gray’s Creek and their senior star Ni’Jaa Wells.
Coach Patty Evers’ Lady Eagles bring an 8-0 record into the tournament that includes victories over Wilmington New Hanover, Jacksonville Northside, Midway and Whiteville.
Senior Patience Ward keys the East Bladen attack, scoring 24 points per game. Ward poured in 45 points in the home win over Northside and has rang up 26 points twice – at Whiteville and at Northside.
Sophomore Alexus Mitchell averages 13 points per game, including a career-high 22 in the season-opener against New Hanover. Sophomore point guard Mya McDonald directs the offense and contributes 12 points per game. Her season-high was 20 points at Northside.
Coach Rick Rhoda’s Lady Bears enter the tourney with a 4-4 record and have won 4 of their last 5 games. Gray’s Creek has wins over South View, Cape Fear, Terry Sanford and Overhills. Losses have been to E. E. Smith, Pine Forest and twice to Scotland.
Wells, a 5-11 center, has posted double-doubles in 5 of 8 games and averages 19.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. She is being recruited by a number of schools including Lander, Gardner Webb, Lenoir Rhyne and Fayetteville State.
Other leaders for the Lady Bears include senior Madeleine Smith (9.6 points, 3.3 assists per game) and junior Morgan Brady (8.3 ppg).
Coach Rhoda is a Bladen County native and a former West Bladen coach.