Eastern Alamance picked up a pair of key conference wins in varsity basketball action Tuesday night, as the Eagles men’s and women’s squads earned Mid-State Conference triumphs over visiting Rockingham. In addition, the EAHS junior varsity men’s team defeated the Cougars as well.
In women’s varsity action, the Eagles continued their surge back towards the top of the Mid-State Conference race. Three years removed from last winning the league’s regular season title, the young EAHS squad is looking to stay near the front of the pack, and did what it had to do Tuesday evening in a well-rounded victory over Rockingham.
Leading 11-6 after the first quarter, the Eagles took control of the game with a decisive second quarter rally. After Rockingham briefly got the score within 11-10, the Eagles got back-to-back buckets for a 15-10 lead. Laila Anderson made a pair of free throws, which led up to a pair of steals and layups by Hali Watkins, which forced a Rockingham timeout with 3:47 left before halftime and EAHS leading, 21-11.
Watkins continued her strong play, driving and scoring for her sixth straight point, and a 23-11 Eagles lead. Then fellow sophomore Amiyah Evans buried a 3-pointer at the 1:40 mark, which extended Eastern’s lead to 15 points, 26-11. Watkins scored yet again just before halftime as the Eagles took a 28-14 advantage over the Cougars into the locker rooms.
EAHS picked up where it left off at the end of the first half in the third quarter, with Watkins setting up Evans for a basket with a nice pass, and Anderson converting a floater following a solid drive. A 3-pointer by freshman Tashawna Garner gave Eastern a 38-20 lead at the 4:15 mark of the third quarter, and Anderson followed with a drive and layup to give the Eagles a 20-point lead - 40-20.
Eastern took a 45-23 lead into the fourth quarter, as the Eagles finished off the third period strong with a transition pass ahead from Watkins to Anderson for a layup, and another 3-pointer by Evans.
Rockingham briefly got within 17 points in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, but Eastern quickly regained control on a transition layup by Evans. A series of fast break layups down the stretch allowed EAHS to keep the Cougars within a safe distance, and the Eagles went on to claim a 57-35 victory. The win improved Eastern’s overall record to 8-3, and the team’s Mid-State Conference mark to 3-1, keeping the Eagles tied for second place in the league standings.
In the varsity men’s game, Rockingham jumped out to an early 20-15 lead early in the second quarter, but a dominant stretch in the second and third quarters, in which EAHS outscored the Cougars by a combined score of 46-16, led to the first triumph of the year for Jay McPherson’s club.
The Eagles were desperate for a win, entering the contest with a disappointing 0-7 record following a series of narrow losses in December conference and non-conference play, as well as the recent Eastern High Holiday Hoopla Tournament.
A 3-pointer by freshman Alik Lewis gave EAHS the lead, 20-19, two and a half minutes into the second quarter. Back-to-back buckets by sophomore Lebron Reels gave Eastern a 23-20 lead at the 4:40 mark of the second quarter, and Reels then scored again for his third straight basket, though Reels drew a technical foul for taunting following his third consecutive basket.
A transition pass from freshman Josh Randolph to junior Camden Gerlach led to another Eagles basket midway through the second quarter, as EAHS began to assert itself. A nifty drive and basket by sophomore Darius Kane - returning for the first time after missing the first month of the season with a shoulder injury - made the score 29-23 in favor of the Eagles.
Eastern continued to pull away from the Cougars as halftime approached, with Reels converting an offensive rebound putback, and Kane coming through with an athletic steal and a brilliant left-handed layup while getting fouled. Kane’s 3-point play, followed by a mid-range jumper from Randolph, gave Eastern a 36-29 advantage. Kane finished up the first half with another steal and pass ahead to Gerlach, whose basket gave Eastern a 38-29 halftime edge.
The Eagles made quick work of Rockingham in the second half, going on an 8-1 run - climaxed by a 3-pointer from Kane - to take a 46-30 lead. A bucket by Blackwell and ensuing free throws by Blackwell and Elijah Burnette built the lead up to 52-33, and a free throw by Reels pushed the lead up to 20 points - 53-33.
Reels, who went on to lead the way for the Eagles with 20 points, made back-to-back baskets in the closing minutes of the third quarter, giving Eastern a commanding 61-37 lead heading into the final eight minutes of play. While Reels led the way for the Eagles offensively, two others were in double figures, as Kane scored 17 points, while Blackwell added 15 points.
Blackwell got hot for the Eagles as the fourth quarter got going, making a series of three baskets in the early minutes of the period to stretch Eastern’s cushion to 71-45. EAHS went on to cruise to an 80-54 win, which improves the Eagles’ overall record to 1-7, and the team’s conference record to 1-3.
The Eagles men’s and women’s teams return to the court Friday night for a matchup with Morehead. For the EAHS men’s squad, the matchup with Morehead will bring a particular challenge, with the Panthers getting off to a perfect 13-0 start this season. It will be a golden opportunity for the Eagles to pull off an upset as they attempt to continue getting their season on track.