ELIZABETHTOWN — The Lady Eagles got a double-double from Lacey Suggs and pulled down more than 50 rebounds Tuesday to knock off visiting Northside Jacksonville, 48-31, in the East Region semifinals.
For No. 1 seed east Bladen, it was the 10th trip to the regionals in the last 15 years and improved their mark to 31-0 this season. The No. 5 Lady Monarchs completed their season at 24-4. East Bladen will play Saturday in the East Region finals, but the opponent and time is still to be determined.
“That’s a good team we beat, maybe the best we’ve played all year,” East Bladen coach Patty Evers said. “We were able to contain one of the best guards in the state (Kayla Stephens, who scored just 14 points).”
The Lady Eagles got out of the gate quickly, as Suggs canned a pair of baskets and a free throw for a 5-0 spurt. Nothing was falling for Northside and the visitors didn’t get on the board until 1:18 was left in the first quarter, when two free throws cut the deficit to 5-2. But Abby Ward hit a bucket, then drained a three-pointer to close the period with East Bladen holding a 10-2 edge.
The tables turned in the second quarter.
Ja’Tyre Moore-Peterson hit one of two free throws for an 11-5 lead, but the Lady Monarchs went on a 9-0 run through the middle of the quarter to knot the game at 11-11. Suggs stopped the bleeding with a pair of driving baskets for a 15-11 edge, but a foul at the buzzer gave Northside three free throws — and two were hit to close the deficit to 15-13 at halftime.
“We knew they would make a run,” Evers said. “But I’m proud of the rebounding we did. Our shots didn’t fall, but they will.”
East Bladen opened the second half with a 6-2 run on a pair of baskets by Suggs and one from Miller Heustess. After the Lady Monarchs hit four straight free throws to cut the margin to 21-19, the Lady Eagles went on a 7-0 burst on a basket and free throw by Suggs, a basket from Ward and a basket from Christiana Cromartie for a 28-19 lead.
Northside buried a basket late in the third quarter, but still trailed by 28-21 going into the fourth quarter.
Moore-Peterson took over the early portion of the fourth frame, scoring all of East Bladen’s nine points in a 9-0 run on a pair of three-pointers, basket and free throw for a 37-21 Lady Eagles advantage.
Northside was held scoreless for the first 4:40 of the final frame and, after their first basket, East Bladen got a pair of free throws each from Suggs and Ward. The Lady Monarchs hit a pair of free throws before Cromartie recorded an old-fashioned three-point play for a 44-25 lead late in the game.
From there, Suggs and Ward each canned a pair of free throws to help seal the 17-point win.
“Those shots by Ja’Tyra in the fourth quarter were huge,” Evers said. “But everyone played their part.
“Defense, defense, defense … that’s what we’re all about, and it was big for us tonight,” she added.
Suggs led East Bladen with 20 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and five steals. Ward contributed 11 points with a three-pointer along with eight steals, seven assists and five rebounds; Moore-Peterson had 10 points with two three-pointers; Emily Scott grabbed 10 rebounds; and Cromartie had 10 rebounds and six blocked shots. Ashley Hardin added seven rebounds for the Lady Eagles.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.