WLIMNINGTON — The summer version of the East Bladen varsity Eagles competed in the Fred Lynch Invitational Basketball Tournament between Saturday, June 21, and Tuesday, June 24, and recovered from an opening-game loss to win five straight and earn their division title.
East Bladen opened against East Columbus and couldn’t dispose of the Gators en route to a loss.
But the Eagles responded in their second game, beating Class 4-A Bartlett-Yancy and then getting a win against Smithfield-Selma, another Class 4-A team.
“Monterro (Graham) was hitting three-pointers left and right in that third game,” East Bladen coach Ken Cross said. “I bet he hit at least eight of them.”
On Monday, the Eagles returned to Wilmington for a matchup with Laney High, yet another Class 4-A squad, for the night game.
“I told the players this was the premiere game of the day and they would have a big crowd there — and they did,” Cross said. “I didn’t want them to let Laney get away from them. And the next thing I knew, we were down 12-0.”
But East Bladen rallied and took a three-point win from the home team to advance into Tuesday’s games with a three-game winning streak.
The Eagles, however received bad news the next morning when it was reported that two players — Denzel Johnson and Dayvon Powell — were involved in a car accident the night before.
“I heard the car rolled a few times, but they weren’t seriously hurt,” Cross said. “They were lucky. But they were out for at least three days.”
That meant just five players went to Wilmington to take on Roxboro Community, but East Bladen played a soft defense in the first half and began to open things up in the second to take a 19-point win — setting up a showdown with former Waccamaw Conference opponent South Brunswick later in the day.
“Farrell (Murchison) was a man in this one,” Cross said. “He took over right from the start. Even though they had 12 players and we had five, it wasn’t really a contest.”
Murchison stroked a couple of three-pointers and crashed the boards for tough layups to lead the Eagles out in front. And when the Cougars adjusted their defense to stop Murchison, Graham nailed a couple of three-pointers that forced South Brunswick to re-adjust again.
“When they tried to stop Farrell and Monterro, that’s when things really opened up inside — and we had an ace in the hole: Eian Hines,” Cross said. “He killed them driving to the basket.
“You might be able to stop one or two players, but not three,” he added.
The end result was a 22-point win and the division title.
“I can’t say enough about those five players (Murchison, Graham, Hines, Ty McMillian and Trevor Lloyd) who went on Tuesday,” Cross said. “They played very well and showed they really wanted it.”
The Eagles, at 5-1 in the tournament, qualified to play in the division finals, but could not return to Wilmington due to a lack of players.
“We only had four or five,” Cross said. “And I really didn’t want to chance getting someone hurt. They played hard the day before.”
East Bladen is scheduled to wrap up its summer competition with three games in Hobbton on Saturday.