DUBLIN — West Bladen’s Knights withstood a furious rally by visiting Purnell Swett, who filled the gymnasium’s rafters with three-pointers in the fourth quarter but came up short in the non-conference matchup, 72-61.
The win improves West Bladen to 3-1 on the season.
The Knights got out of the gate quickly with a 4-0 spurt that turned into a 10-4 run after baskets by John Bowen and Jimmy Williams, along with a pair of free throws by Sayaun Dent. The Rams canned a three-pointer and basket, but West Bladen got two more free throws from Dent, a four-point play on a three-pointer and free thrown by Dent, followed by a three-pointer from Stefan McDonald to give the Knights a 19-9 lead after the first quarter.
Purnell Swett nailed a bucket to open the second stanza, but the Knights went on a 6-0 spurt that included a basket by Bowen, a basket by McDonald and a thunderous dunk by Johnson that gave West Bladen a 25-11 lead. After a Rams basket, the Knights got a basket from De’quan Lennon, a free throw by Bowen and a basket from Lennon to expand the lead to 30-13 midway through the quarter.
The Rams hit a basket and free throw before West Bladen got three free throws from Johnson. Swett then got a basket and two free throws, offset only by Malique McDowell’s layup, and trailed by 35-20 at the half.
“We need to be more efficient on offense, and we can’t keep missing the easy ones,” said West Bladen coach Travis Pait. “The defense isn’t bad, but we can guard better than we are.”
Bowen canned a bucket for the Knights to open the second half, but Purnell Swett went on a 9-1 run to close the gap to 38-29 before West Bladen exploded for an 8-0 spurt that featured a pair of baskets by both Johnson and McDonald to run the lead out to 46-29. A basket by Johnson was book-ended by a pair of Rams baskets that whittled the West Bladen lead to 48-33 after three quarters.
Purnell Swett narrowed the deficit to 10 twice in the fourth quarter, only to see the Knights respond with 4-0 spurts to widen the gap again. The Rams rained three-pointers throughout the fourth frame and hit six of them to stay in the game, but West Bladen got six points from McDonald, five points from Dent and two huge dunks from Johnson to hold off the visitors.
“Our defense was a bit porous in the fourth quarter and we made some mistakes on offense,” Pait said. “But we’re learning and we’re getting better. We got some good minutes from a few players off the bench like Malique, Kalvin Page and Will Lambeth, and I’m happy about that.”
West Bladen had three players in double figures — Johnson scored 17 points, McDonald scored 15 points and had nine assists, and Dent scored 13 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Lennon scored nine points and had eight rebounds, while Bowen scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Knights.
West Bladen will open Four County Conference action on Tuesday at Union at 8 p.m.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.