Although Eastern Alamance’s men’s basketball week got off to a disappointing start with a home setback to McMichael the evening of January 21, the Eagles got back on track with a pair of wins later in the week on the road at Graham and Northeast Guilford. Along the way, the Eagles earned revenge against the Rams for their first conference loss of the season, while also inching ever-so-closer to that .500 mark that seemed so elusive when EAHS got off to a disappointing 0-7 start.
The Eagles simply dug themselves a hole against the Phoenix, who used a balanced scoring effort to build a commanding 33-14 halftime advantage. Eastern fought back in the second half, pushing to within 47-34 heading into the fourth quarter, and eventually pulling into single digits as the clock wound down. But unfortunately for the Eagles, they ran out of time, with their late comeback bid falling six points short. Darius Kane led the way for EAHS with 16 points against the Phoenix, while Nick Blackwell added 13 points.
Things went significantly more smoothly for EAHS against Graham, as the Eagles traveled the short distance across the county and handed the Red Devils a 68-22 blistering. Things were never in doubt for Eastern as they parlayed a 26-11 advantage at the end of the first quarter into a dominating 56-14 halftime advantage, as EAHS remarkably outscored the Red Devils 30-3 over the second eight-minute stretch.
With a running clock on throughout the second half, the pace slowed down considerably, with Eastern taking a 64-17 lead into the fourth quarter, and then scoring four final points in the fourth quarter for a 46-point victory over its cross-county rival. Blackwell led three EAHS players in double figures with 12 points, while Kane added 11 points and six rebounds, and Lebron Reels 10 points and five boards. Freshman Josh Randolph led the way on the glass for Eastern with eight rebounds, while Elijah Burnette contributed three steals against the Red Devils.
The Eagles got a chance for revenge on Friday night, as they traveled to McLeansville to take on Northeast Guilford. The Rams got the best of Eastern back on December 17, earning a narrow 60-56 win over the Eagles in what was EAHS’s season opener. Fast-forward a month, and the tables were turned.
Eastern didn’t get off to a particularly great start, falling behind the Rams 14-11 after one period of play. But EAHS got things going in the second quarter, managing to wrestle away the lead from the Rams, 26-25, at halftime. The Eagles turned on the jets in the third quarter, pulling away from Northeast Guilford with 21 points to take a 47-37 lead into the final period.
Although the Rams got going offensively in the fourth quarter, the Eagles held them off along the perimeter and at the free throw line for an important 63-57 win, which improved Eastern’s overall mark to 7-9. Blackwell threw down a pair of emphatic slam dunks down the stretch as the Eagles claimed the important road win. Blackwell finished with 11 points, while Kane led the Eagles in scoring with 17 points, and freshman Alik Lewis chipped in 14 points.
With the win over the Rams, the Eagles entered a three-way tie with Northeast Guilford and Person for fifth place in the Mid-State Conference standings, with all three squads sitting at 3-5 through the first rotation of league games.
With eight regular season games to play, the Eagles still have a legitimate shot at the postseason. Eastern will have to finish strong, but they have already proven they can play with the top teams in the league.
Eastern defeated Morehead, who currently sits in a three-way tie atop the league standings with Northern Guilford and Western Alamance. EAHS recently took Western Alamance to a double-overtime thriller in Elon. Eastern will seek redemption against Northern Guilford and Western with a pair of home games in Mebane in February. EAHS will face off against the Nighthawks Friday evening inside Tal Jobe Gymnasium, and will host Western Alamance on Senior Night February 11.
This week, the Eagles take the court for a trio of games, as they continue to make up for time lost in late November and December, during Eastern High’s state football playoff run. The Eagles host Person Tuesday night in Mebane before traveling Wednesday night to Williams, and then hosting Northern Guilford Friday night. Wednesday night’s game with Williams will be the first meeting between the Eagles and Bulldogs since last winter’s NCHSAA 3A East Regional Championship game in Fayetteville, while Eastern will be looking to avenge setbacks to both Person and Northern Guilford earlier in the season.