Eastern Alamance has gotten used to playing close games this season, with 11 of the team’s first 20 games this season being decided by seven points or less. So last Tuesday night’s game at Rockingham wasn’t anything unusual for the Eagles.
EAHS was trailing 61-60 on the road in overtime against the Cougars, in a tough position to potentially lose yet another league heartbreaker.
But this time around, things would be different.
For once, the ball bounced Eastern’s way. And the Eagles caught a huge break in the form of an Elijah Burnette buzzer-beating layin as the overtime clock wound down for a dramatic 62-61 triumph over the Cougars.
EAHS went to the brink with league foe Rockingham County in what turned out to be the team’s fourth straight game in Mid-State Conference play that was decided by two possessions or less. But Burnette’s basket ensured a much different feeling hitting the road back to Mebane this time around compared to recent heartbreaking home losses in the final seconds to Person and Northern Guilford.
Once again, it was sophomore Darius Kane who provided the most firepower for the Eagles, leading the way offensively with 17 points. Evan Mann and Alik Lewis each had 16 points for the victorious Eagles. The win improved Eastern’s overall mark to 9-7, and its Mid-State Conference mark to 4-7.
The two teams played evenly most of the way, with the Eagles taking a slim 18-15 after one quarter of play, and a 33-30 lead into halftime. Rockingham caught EAHS in the third quarter, tying the score 45-45 heading into the fourth quarter, and the two teams ended regulation tied, 57-57. A key free throw by Lewis in the final two minutes with the Eagles trailing, 57-56, forced the extra session. Neither team could convert scoring opportunities in the final minutes of regulation.
In overtime, Rockingham got the first basket to take a 59-57 lead, but a free throw by Lewis pulled Eastern within one point, 59-58. The Cougars got two more free throw of their own for a 61-58 advantage, but EAHS scored the game’s final four points. Kane connected on a basket in the final two minutes, which was a prelude to Burnette’s clutch layup as time expired.
On Friday night, the Eagles were supposed to travel to Eden to take on a tough 15-4 Morehead squad. But the game and the road trip were postponed to Saturday following ABSS’s dismissal of school on Friday due to unsafe, windy conditions in the local area.
Eastern had actually beaten the Panthers when the two teams met up earlier in the winter in Mebane, but things would be different this time around. The Panthers built a 20-point third quarter lead against the Eagles, which was enough of a cushion to hold off a fierce fourth quarter rally by the visitors from Mebane.
EAHS struggled to find the basket in the early going, scoring just nine first quarter points as the Panthers built a 20-9 lead heading into the second quarter. The Eagles played much better in the second quarter, pushing into the Panthers’ lead for a 36-27 halftime score. But the third quarter proved to be disastrous for EAHS, as the Eagles managed just six points, and watched their nine-point deficit turn into a 54-33 deficit heading into the final eight minutes.
Even after turning on the jets in the fourth quarter - scoring nearly half their total points for the entire game - it wasn’t enough, as EAHS was on the wrong end of a 68-59 final score. Eastern got 15 points from both Lebron Reels and Nick Blackwell in the loss. Reels got particularly hot, connecting on five 3-pointers against the Panthers.
This week is the final week of regular season play for the Eagles. On Monday night, EAHS travels to Cummings, and on Tuesday evening, hosts Western Alamance on Senior Night inside Tal Jobe Gymnasium. Friday night is the regular season finale on the road at McMichael. Come to MebaneEnterprise.com for complete coverage of the Cummings game and the Senior Night showdown with Western Alamance.