EAHS unable to hold second half lead against Warriors

A slam dunk by senior Nick Blackwell early in the fourth quarter energized the crowd inside Tal Jobe Gymnasium Tuesday evening, while giving Eastern Alamance a 45-40 lead over rival Western Alamance on Senior Night. Unfortunately for EAHS, however, the Warriors rallied down the stretch for a 49-45 victory, with Blackwell's dunk serving as the final points of the game for the Eagles. EAHS travels Friday night to McMichael for its final regular season contest.

Eastern Alamance’s men’s basketball team has been in numerous close battles this season, so it fit with the program that Tuesday night’s Senior Night encounter with Western Alamance would be a nail-biter. The game was the last regular season home game inside Tal Jobe Gymnasium for three EAHS seniors - Caleb Hester, Elijah Burnette, and Nick Blackwell. 

For the second time this winter, the Eagles and Warriors went back-and-forth in a struggle that came down to the wire. But unfortunately for Eastern, Western Alamance found a way to pick up a season sweep, earning a 49-45 win over the Eagles. 

As they did Monday night in a 16-point non-conference road victory at Cummings, Eastern got off to a fast start. A 3-pointer by Darius Kane and a follow-up bucket by Caleb Hester gave the Eagles an 11-6 advantage early on, and a putback by Lebron Reels gave EAHS a 15-11 lead heading into the second quarter. 

Reels stole the show in the second quarter, scoring 10 of Eastern’s first 12 points in the period. The sophomore made a pair of free throws at the 4:40 mark after EAHS had gone nearly the first three and a half minutes of the second quarter without scoring. Reels’ free throws pushed Eastern back ahead, 17-15, after Western had tied the score. Reels then connected on a 3-pointer, and then collected an offensive rebound and putback basket, which gave the Eagles a 22-15 with 2:40 left in the half. 

Evan Mann made a pair of free throws, which was followed by a Western Alamance 3-pointer. Reels then buried another 3-pointer, which gave the Eagles a 27-18 lead, and some good passing led to a bucket by Camden Gerlach, which made the score 29-20 in favor of the Eagles at halftime. 

Unfortunately, as was the case in other Mid-State Conference home battles against frontrunners such as Northern Guilford and Person, the Eagles were unable to hang on to a well-earned halftime lead. 

Although Western briefly pulled within 32-29 early in the third period, the Eagles managed to hold the Warriors off for most of the quarter. A 3-pointer by Reels gave EAHS a 37-29 lead with around three minutes remaining in the period, but Western scored the next nine points to take a stunning 38-37 lead late in the quarter, climaxed by a 4-point play on a 3-pointer and subsequent free throw by Western’s Shane Peterson after drawing a foul from Kane. 

Nick Blackwell connected on a 3-pointer for the Eagles, which briefly gave the home team the lead back 40-38, but the Warriors got a basket to send the game into the fourth quarter tied, 40-40. 

EAHS quickly regained the momentum at the start of the fourth quarter, as a 3-pointer by Kane led up to a slam dunk by Blackwell, which energized the crowd inside Tal Jobe Gymnasium as the Eagles went back ahead, 45-40. But once again the Warriors rallied, as Grant Daniel made a pair of free throws, and Gavion Taylor buried a 3-pointer to tie the score. 

The game was seemingly tied 45-45 for hours, as the two teams headed down the stretch knotted up. Finally, with under a minute to play, Taylor hit the shot of the night, working his way open and making a clutch 3-pointer for a 48-45 Warriors lead. 

The Eagles called timeout to set something up, but were unable to get the equalizer. Jackson Dobson went to the free throw line for the Warriors after a desperation foul by the Eagles, and made one attempt, giving the Warriors their four-point edge that held up through the final buzzer. 

Reels led the way for the Eagles with 18 points and eight rebounds, including four 3-pointers, while Blackwell added nine points and four boards. Elijah Burnette added eight rebounds. 

The disappointing setback to the Warriors dropped Eastern’s overall record to 10-13, and the team’s mark in conference action slipped to 4-9. The Eagles close out the regular season Friday night with a road game at McMichael, and will then gear up for next week’s Mid-State Conference tournament. The Eagles will hit the road in the opening round to face an as-yet undetermined opponent.