CLINTON — The Lady Eagles teetered on the brink of being handed their first loss of the season Tuesday, but battled back from a late-game deficit to steal a 42-38 Four County Conference win over Clinton.
East Bladen improved to 19-0 overall and 9-0 in the conference.
It was a far cry from the first meeting between the two on Dec. 17, when the Lady Eagles thrashed Clinton by a 58-30 verdict.
On Tuesday, the Lady Dark Horses took advantage of East Bladen turnovers and the two teams traded points through the first quarter, which ended in a 14-14 knot.
Clinton opened the second stanza with a basket that put the Lady Dark Horses up 16-14, and East Bladen never saw the lead again until late in the third quarter.
The Lady Eagles had their lowest scoring quarter of the season in that second period, putting just four points on the board while Clinton scored eight to take a 22-18 advantage into halftime.
After some halftime adjustments from East Bladen coach Patty Evers, the Lady Eagles opened the second half with a 9-3 spurt hat gave East Bladen the lead on an Abby Ward three-pointer, 27-25. But Clinton finished the third quarter with a 4-1 burst and took a 29-28 lead into the fourth quarter.
East Bladen opened the final frame with a 6-2 run fueled by a Ward steal that Lacey Suggs turned into a basket, giving the Lady Eagles a lead they would not relinquish. East Bladen went on to build a 38-33 edge highlighted by a driving basket by Suggs and missed free throws by the Lady Dark Horses.
But Clinton fought to within 38-37 with less than a minute left to play before East Bladen’s defense — playing without shot-blocker Christiana Cromartie, who fouled out with 3 minutes to play — turned back a Lady Dark Horses drive to the basket and Suggs converted three of four free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
“We were lucky to get that one,” Evers said. “I think we came out ready and maybe a little overexcited. I thought we were overplaying, which caused some unforced turnovers on our part.
“We couldn’t hit much from the outside, which was the difference from the first game,” she added. “However, Cromartie, (Miller) Heustess and (Ja’Tyra) Moore-Peterson hit some big shots when we needed them.”
Suggs led East Bladen with 17 points, nine of which came in the fourth quarter, while Cromartie blocked nine shots for the Lady Eagles.
East Bladen will go on the road Friday for a 6 p.m. conference game at Pender County.