LAKE WACCAMAW — For the second week in a row, the West Bladen Knights went to overtime in a tournament championship game. And for the second week in a row, the Knights earned the win — this time in the East Columbus Christmas Tournament over a pesky South Robeson team, 68-61.
The win improved West Bladen to 10-1.
Despite the Mustangs’ 2-7 record coming in, the Knights knew they were in for a tough game when South Robeson opened the contest with an 8-0 run. But West Bladen, behind a three-pointer by Stefan McDonald, answered with a 9-5 spurt to cut the deficit to 13-9. The Mustangs, however, finished the first quarter with a 17-14 edge.
The Knights turned up the defensive heat in the second stanza, holding the South Robeson to just seven points while the West Bladen offense put up 15 points in the quarter — sparked by another McDonald three-pointer and dunk. When the half came to a close, the Knights had taken a 29-24 advantage.
South Robeson opened the second half with a 6-2 spurt to close the gap to 31-30, but McDonald canned a bucket and drained his third three-pointer of the game to extend the West Bladen lead to 36-30.
The Mustangs suddenly came to life and went on an 11-0 run to take a 41-36 lead, but West Bladen finished the third quarter with a 4-0 spurt to close the period within 41-40.
South Robeson opened the final 8 minutes with a 6-0 burst for a 47-40 edge, but McDonald splashed another three-pointer home and helped pull West Bladen to within 49-47. The Knights held on to the momentum down the stretch, fueled by a Sayaun Dent three-pointer. With time running out and West Bladen trailing 56-55, Dent was fouled — and he canned one of two shots to knot the game when regulation ended.
In overtime, as he did last week, John Bowen all but stole the show. The Knights outscored South Robeson 12-5 with Bowen scoring six of the Knights’ points to seal the win.
“South Robeson caused us some problems, but we just didn’t play well at all,” said West Bladen coach Travis Pait. “We managed to get our focus late in regulation and through overtime, but we missed a lot of shots in the game.
“In the kids’ defense, we played five games without practice, which is tough,” he added. “We need to get back in the gym and get better, because conference play will be really tough.”
McDonald led West Bladen with 24 points and also had nine rebounds with five steals. Dent contributed a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Bowen added 11 points and six boards.