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With the fate of its season hanging in the balance, a crucial block from senior Makayla Everette in the final seconds ensured Beddingfield would survive a late push from Providence Grove of Climax to send the Lady Bruins into the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-A girls basketball playoffs.
“It felt good because they were down three,” Everette said of the big play after the narrow 78-75 victory Tuesday night at Beddingfield. “So I knew that they were going for the 3. I knew I had to do everything I could to stop them.”
Beddingfield, the Eastern Plains Conference runner-up and No. 11 seed in the 2-A East, will take an 18-7 record into its second-round date with No. 6 Croatan (24-2), a 53-11 winner over Midway, in Newport on Thursday.
The No. 22 Patriots, who tied for fifth in the PAC 7 Conference, ended 13-14.
If not for some crucial team defense in the final seconds, things might have slipped away for Beddingfield, which led most of the game.
Patriots junior guard Malea Garrison led a furious charge in the fourth quarter to make things too close for comfort for the Lady Bruins in the final moments.
Garrison — who Everette assessed was the best player her team has faced all year — scored 18 points in the final frame to finish with a game-high 43.
The Bruins entered the fourth quarter up 11, but found themselves down with just over a minute to go after a free throw took the lead for the visitors for the first time since the intial basket.
With 14 seconds remaining, though, and the ball belonging to the Patriots, Beddingfield clung to its defense and a one-possession lead. It turned out to be enough.
When it came down to that final possession, the Beddingfield defense did all it could to keep the ball out of Garrison’s hands. When she gave up the ball, the big block from Everette on a corner 3 allowed the home team to escape, earning a bus ride to Croatan on Thursday.
“We just held on,” Beddingfield head coach Debra Pegram said. “We were very fortunate, but Makayla is a great eraser for us when things go wrong.”
To force what was an exciting ending, Providence Grove dismantled what had been a comfortable lead for Beddingfield in the second half. Visions of its own roadtrip over to the beach inspired the land-locked Patriots to push forward, putting the pressure on with a fullcourt man-to-man pressure for the entirety of the second half.
“We found out if we win we’ll be going to the beach, so going to the beach kind of motivated us to push,” Garrison explained. “And knowing that this could be the last game of the season, we just wanted to leave it all out there.”
The defensive pressure put stress on the Bruins’ guards and forced cross-court passes that led to turnovers. Though the defensive shift didn’t make much difference in the third quarter, it started to make a noticeable change in the fourth quarter.
Among others, the defensive gameplan was designed to limit Beddingfield freshman point guard Daneesha Briggs. Providence Grove head coach Erin Sikes said her team knew Everette would be a key matchup, but hadn’t counted on Briggs to step out and make five 3-pointers in the first half.
“It really got them out of their game,” Sikes said. “In that first half, we were giving them a lot of outside shots and we prepared for their taller girl, their center, but their point guard was shooting 3s and we weren’t getting a hand in her face.”
Briggs did not shy away from the trapping defensive scheme, though. After a quiet two points in the third quarter, Briggs returned for the most important eight minutes to score nine points, including a pair of free throws that turned out to take the lead for good.
The big play from Everette sealed the deal, but Briggs play in her first playoff action might have been as important as any contributions made.
“It’s her first playoff game and she played with the big dogs tonight,” Everette said with a grin. “She did a good job.”
Briggs finished with 28 points, following closely behind 33 for Everette. As usual, the tandom combined as a threatening duo offensively.
After escaping with a win, the Bruins know things only get tougher from here. On Thursday, the program will be the higher seed against a Croatan team that has won 20 games in a row.
“My understanding is that Croatan is really quick,” Pegram said. “They press a lot, I don’t think they have a lot of size, so we’ve got to just get down the court and feed the big girl.”
PROVIDENCE GROVE (75)
MaKlain 7, Austin 9, Garrison 43, Jackson 4, Frairer 9, Suxton 3.
Everette 33, Anderson 2, Sherrod 5, Briggs 28, Best 5, Pender 5.
Score by quarters:
PG 12 21 14 28 — 75
BHS 18 23 17 20 — 78