ELIZABETHTOWN — A first-half blowout turned into a second-half barn-burner and ended with a heartbreaking, last-second loss for the Eagles at the hands of visiting Wallace-Rose Hill, 69-66, on Thursday.
East Bladen falls to 5-15 overall and 2-10 in the Four County Conference. The Bulldogs improved to 12-5, 8-3.
Baskets by Sincere Smith and Dayvon Powell kept the Eagles knotted with Wallace-Rose Hill early, but East Bladen went on a 7-0 spurt behind a three-pointer by Ethan Hines, a basket by Eian Hines and two free throws by Chris Cromartie for an 11-4 lead. After a Bulldogs free throw, East Bladen got a three-pointer from J.R. Robinson and baskets by Robinson and Derrick Burney to go up 18-5.
Wallace-Rose Hill stopped the run with a bucket, but Denzel Johnson drained a three-pointer to close the first quarter and give East Bladen a 21-9 edge.
The Eagles padded the lead early in the second stanza when Smith nailed back-to-back three-pointers and Powell capped off the 8-0 run with a basket, putting East Bladen up 29-9. The Bulldogs stopped the bleeding a three-pointer, but the Eagles went on an 11-3 burst that ended with back-to-back three-pointers by Demetrius Wooten that gave East Bladen a 25-point lead at 40-15.
But Wallace-Rose Hill answered with a 6-0 run and, after a Wooten basket, finished the half with a 5-0 spurt to close the gap to 42-26 at intermission.
“We gave up a five-point swing at the end there with a missed layup and then a three-pointer,” East Bladen coach Ken Cross said at halftime. “If we keep our composure, we’ll be OK.”
Wallace-Rose Hill turned the tables in the second half.
The two teams traded points early in the third third quarter, with a free throw by Powell and baskets by Ethan Hines and Powell keeping East Bladen up 47-30. But the Bulldogs went on a 9-0 run to whittle the deficit to 47-39 midway through the quarter. Johnson canned a three-pointer to stop the visitors’ run, and the Eagles got two baskets from Smith and another from Robinson to finish the third quarter with a 56-46 lead.
The two teams opened the fourth frame with six points each, but Wallace-Rose Hill manufactured an 8-0 spurt with a pair of three-pointers that cut the Eagles’ lead to 62-58. Powell hit a basket to put East Bladen up 64-58, but the Bulldogs got two quick baskets to knot the game at 64-64, then took the lead with two free throws with 1:14 on the clock.
Ethan Hines canned a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left to play at 66-66, setting up the final play for Wallace-Rose Hill. The ball went into the left corner and, with a second left it was lofted — and fell through as the buzzer sounded for the winner.
“We had the drive covered but didn’t get out on the three,” Cross said. “We gave a good effort and played hard, but were just a little snake-bit.”
Smith led East Bladen with 13 points, while Powell was also in double figures with 10. Ethan Hines scored nine points for the Eagles and Wooten had eight points. Nine Eagles scored in the game, and East Bladen hit eight three-pointers.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.