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East Bladen wins again

East Bladen's Zhane Johnson (33) moves the ball around East Columbus' Lauren Jenkins (25) at East Columbus High School on Wednesday. (Photo by Mike Spencer)

LAKE WACCAMAW | East Bladen lost four starters and the school's all-time leading scorer to graduation last year. But the Eagles haven't missed a beat and continue to win.

Patty Evers' mostly new team is 9-5 on the season after a 37-33 win at East Columbus on Wednesday. Even Evers struggles to comprehend how the Eagles keep winning.

"I'm just floored," Evers said. "(East Columbus coach Karyln Stephens) is my best friend, and I told her, if they're going to get us, they're going to get us now."

So far this season, East Bladen (9-5, 3-0) has done a lot more of the getting than its opponents, and the Eagles put a midseason feather in their caps by handing East Columbus (7-2, 1-0) only its second loss of the year on the Gators home court. East Bladen was able to lock down defensively in the second half and negate the Gators' inside presence of Laura Jenkins, and Meonti Campbell, which combined for 21 rebounds and 16 points on the night. East Columbus coach Karyln Stephens said her team hurt itself at the free throw line.

"We have to make free throws," Stephens said. "We shot 22 and made nine. That was the difference."

The Eagles have even found another prolific scorer in Zhane Johnson, the lone returning starter from last year's team. Johnson scored 21 points on a collection of deep and midrange jump shots, and pulled down six rebounds, tied for a team-high.

"She came out from under a leaf," Evers said. "She didn't say a word the first three years. She and Crystal Shipman, my two seniors, they just lead."

Melissa Macon tossed in six points for the Eagles and Abby Norris added six rebounds.

While the transition may be easy for the current roster of Eagles, for Evers, it's something new. After three straight trips to the state title game, Evers isn't used to being the underdog. But she said it was a refreshing change of pace.

"We don't know what to expect from night to night, "Evers said. "Nobody expected us to win much. It takes me back to my start of coaching. It's almost like starting over."

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