DUBLIN — No. 4-seeded West Bladen overcame a turnover-filled second half, hit several key free throws late and handed visiting Midway, the No. 5 seed, a 60-56 loss in the first-round matchup of the Four County Tournament on Tuesday.
It was the fourth straight time the Knights had defeated the Raiders this season.
West Bladen improved to 19-6 overall on the season and will face No. 1 seed Heidi Trask on Wednesday at Union High at 7:30 p.m., while Midway fell to 15-10.
“We didn’t play very well,” said West Bladen coach Travis Pait. “But credit them (Midway). It’s hard to beat a talented team four times.”
The Knights opened the contest like they were going to run away with things. Sayaun Dent buried two baskets for West Bladen, each of which was matched by the Raiders. But then the Knights went on a 9-0 burst featuring a three-pointer by Stefan McDonald and baskets by Shaquille Johnson, John Bowen and Jonathan Robinson for a 13-4 lead.
Baskets by Dent and McDonald offset a bucket and free throw by the Raiders, but Midway canned another free throw and a three-pointer in the final seconds of the first quarter to close the deficit to 17-11.
The Raiders drained a three-pointer to open the second stanza, but McDonald swished a three-pointer of his own for West Bladen moments later. Midway followed up with a 6-2 run, allowing only free throws by Dent and Bowen, and pulled to within 26-20.
Dent and McDonald hit a basket each to widen the lead, but the Raiders wouldn’t go away, finishing the half with a 7-2 spurt to cut the Knights’ lead to 28-27 at the intermission.
“We need to box out a lot better and pick up the energy,” Pait said. “The plan is to stay in the zone (defense), then go man-to-man in the fourth quarter and put the game away.”
The plan didn’t go as hoped.
Though West Bladen’s shots were falling, their passes were getting picked off. The Knights committed 16 turnovers in the second half, giving Midway enough of a crack to keep things close.
The third quarter was a back and forth affair that never allowed either team to pull away by more than six points. West Bladen got the best of things through the first half of the period with an 11-6 run to take a 39-33 edge. But the Raiders closed the quarter with a 7-1 burst to knot the game at 40-40 going into the fourth frame.
West Bladen opened the final 8 minutes much like they did in the first 8 minutes. McDonald buried a three-pointer and baskets by Dent and Johnson gave the Knights a 47-42 edge. But Midway bounced right back, hitting two free throws and a three-pointer to tie the game, then getting a basket for a 49-47 lead — its first of the game.
Back came West Bladen. The Knights went on a 9-0 run on an old-fashioned three-point play by Robinson and free throws from Dent, Johnson and McDonald for a 56-49 edge. But the Raiders nailed a long three-pointer and added a basket to cut the deficit to 56-54 before McDonald hit a free throw and, on the in-bounds pass, Jimmy Williams intercepted a Midway pass and was fouled with 22 seconds left to play — hitting both free throws to give West Bladen a 59-54 lead.
Midway hit a basket, then fouled Dent on the in-bounds. The West Bladen junior sank one of two free throws to seal the win.
“That was a big steal by Jimmy, and those two free throws were key as well,” Pait said.
West Bladen was led on the scoreboard by a trio of players in double figures. McDonald led the way with 19 points and four three-pointers, while Dent contributed 17 points with a three-pointer and Johnson added 11 points. McDonald also had three assists; Dent added nine rebounds and three assists; and Johnson had 11 rebounds and four steals.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.