(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- Before their game against New Madrid County Central on Thursday, the Charleston Lady Bluejays honored senior E'Neikqua Ewing for scoring 1,000 career points the night prior against Malden.
Ewing returned the favor with a clutch 31 point, 10 rebound performance that included the game-winning shot in a 75-72 win over the Lady Eagles.
"Ewing and Sierra Frazier are our horses and we rode them," Charleston head coach Josh Thompson said. "Ewing wanted to make sure she got the ball. She's sitting over there during timeouts saying, 'I want the ball coach.'
"She took it and did with it what she had to do."
Ewing's fourth quarter heroics were even more impressive considering she picked up her fourth foul with 6:29 left in regulation. By subbing her out on defensive possessions, however, Thompson was able to keep her attacking on offense.
Of Ewing's 31 points, 12 came in the fourth quarter when the Lady Bluejays trailed by as many as five points with 3:55 to play. A bucket and a free throw by Ewing closed Charleston back within a score before a layup from Cheyenne Randle knotted things up at 65-65.
The two squads continued to swap baskets until a couple late turnovers by the Lady Eagles gave the Lady Bluejays their first lead, 70-68, since late in the third quarter.
NMCC answered on their next drive with a quick jumper from Shanterra Waters to square things up, giving Charleston the ball and the chance to take the lead with 48 seconds remaining.
Rather than run the clock down for a last shot attempt, the Lady Bluejays worked the ball down the court before passing the ball to Ewing. Taking the ball near the top of the arc, Ewing proceeded to drive through the lane and put up a shot that put her team on top once and for all 72-70.
"They couldn't stop her driving the lane," Thompson said. "She got really smart after they picked up a charge on her earlier. She's going to pull up and go right just a little bit. It made a big difference."
NMCC still had 28 seconds to answer, but a missed 3-pointer was rebounded by the Lady Bluejays, who made it a three-point game when Frazier connected on 1 of 2 shots from the charity stripe.
Ewing proceeded to sink her final two free throws just seconds later, essentially putting the game out of reach at 75-70 with 9.7 seconds remaining.
"We played fantastic," Ewing said. "I am so proud of us. We had to just pull it together, slow it down and just play hard."
Though they were never able to pull away, for the better part of the first three quarters Charleston had the Lady Eagles fighting from behind. The two teams swapped leads occasionally, but Charleston always managed a small run that once again had them two to four points ahead.
NMCC reversed that trend late in the third and had a two point lead in the final seconds until a Juwanna Walker put-back just before the buzzer had Charleston tied back up entering the fourth.
An 11-6, four-minute run by the Lady Eagles to start the frame had them ahead 65-60 before the Lady Bluejays went to work on one last comeback.
"Anytime we play Charleston it's a physical game and it seems like when we come over here it's even more physical," NMCC head coach David Crockett said. "We have to respond to that and I didn't think we did. I told them at the end of third quarter it's an eight minute game.
"I thought they outplayed us physically in the fourth quarter."
Behind Ewing's game-high 31 points, Sierra Frazier had 24 points for Charleston, 17 in the first half.
For the Lady Eagles, Karen McGloson easily led the way with 29 points, 18 of which came in the first two quarters. Benesha Childress and Whitney Williams added 12 points each to NMCC's cause while Waters contributed 10.
Thompson credited a strong defensive performance by his squad holding some of NMCC's typically big scorers, like Childress, to a much tamer night.
"We played man-to-man in the first half and did a lot of good things," he said. "But I felt like they were adjusting to that so we kind of went to a box-and-one and that frustrated them a little bit.
"We put a man on Childress and then McGloson hurt us, but we made some adjustments to that."
Charleston moves to 11-4 on the season while the Lady Eagles fall to 8-5.
NMCC (72) -- Shanterra Waters 10, Dallas Campbell 3, Amirah Ruff 4, Whitney Williams 12, Aqwanness Johnson 2, Benesha Childress 12, Karen McGloson 29. FG 28, FT 15-25, F 24. (3-pointers: Campbell 1. Fouled out: McGloson.)
CHARLESTON (75) -- Sierra Frazier 24, Frederica Evans 6, Juwanna Walker 9, Cheyenne Randle 5, E'Neikqua Ewing 31. FG 29, FT 17-35, F 18. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none.)