On Monday night, Eastern Alamance’s men’s basketball program celebrated seniors Camden Gerlach and Evan Mann, who played their final games inside Tal Jobe Gymnasium. For Mann, who watched his three older brothers play and wear his same No. 12 jersey for the Eagles throughout his childhood, the contest against rival Western Alamance was the end of an era.
The Eagles - winners of two straight games heading into the rivalry showdown with the Warriors - were looking to finish their home slate on the positive note, and they did so, picking up a 48-41 triumph over their rivals from Elon. Junior Darius Kane proved to be the offensive hero once again, scoring a game-high 29 points in the win, while Mann added seven points.
The Warriors looked like they were going to make quick work of the Eagles in the opening minutes, breaking out to an early 8-0 in the first two minutes behind a pair of 3-pointers and another bucket. But the Eagles began chipping into the lead, as a nice pass from Camden Gerlach to Kane got EAHS on the scoreboard at 8-2 two and a half minutes into the contest.
A pair of steals by Caleb Gerlach got the Eagles some more momentum, with the second steal leading to a layup and an 8-4 score. A second 3-pointer by Kane at the 1:40 mark got Eastern within 10-7, and a 3-pointer by Josh Randolph made the count 12-10. Western took a 14-10 advantage into the second quarter.
The Eagles then cooled off a little, allowing Western to jump ahead 18-10 before a nifty 3-point play by Kane around the 5:45 mark. Kane then forced a Warriors turnover and turned the steal into a layup on the other end, pulling EAHS within 18-15. Kane scored 10 of the Eagles’ first 15 points.
Lebron Reels pulled the Eagles even closer with a 3-pointer around the 5:00 mark, making the score 20-18 in favor of the Warriors. Mann split the Western defense and buried a jumper in the middle of the lane to make the score 23-20, but it would prove to be Eastern’s final points of the half. The Eagles trailed going into the locker rooms for halftime, 25-20.
EAHS opened the second half scoring as Mann found Camden Gerlach inside for a nice pass and a bucket in the paint, followed by a drive and layup by Kane to pull the Eagles within 25-24. Kane then gave the Eagles the lead around the 5:25 mark of the third quarter with a drive and floater. As Western Alamance went the first four minutes of the third period without scoring, Kane once again drove the lane and laid one in to give Eastern a 28-25 lead, resulting in a Warriors timeout.
Western finally scored on a pair of free throws at the 3:42 mark following a technical foul called against EAHS head coach Brad Costa, but Kane drew a foul on the other end and sank one of two shots to put the Eagles back ahead, 29-28. Mann gave EAHS a three-point advantage with a slick spin through the lane, resulting in a layup and a 31-28 Eastern lead with under two minutes left in the quarter.
Kane, who scored 11 of Eastern’s 15 points in the third period, continued slashing his way to high-percentage shots, scoring twice in a row to give the Eagles a 35-30 advantage. But the talented junior paid a toll for his efficiency, as he tweaked an ankle down the stretch. Western scored just its third field goal of the period to wind down the scoring, and Eastern took a narrow 35-32 edge into the final period.
Western briefly pulled within 35-34, but a 3-pointer in the corner by Mann gave the Eagles a four-point lead, 38-34. Kane sank a pair of free throws midway through the period for a 41-36 Eagles lead, but Western took advantage of an EAHS turnover near midcourt for a layup and a 41-38 score.
Kane missed a chance to give the Eagles a two-possession lead around the 1:40 mark, but he redeemed himself with a steal and dazzling coast-to-coast layup while getting fouled. Kane’s 3-point play proved to be the backbreaker for the Warriors, as it pushed the Eastern lead to 44-38 with just 1:27 left. Another free throw with just under a minute left gave the Eagles a seven-point lead at 45-38. Hunter Westbrooks sank a free throw with just over 30 seconds to play for a 46-38 Eagles lead, but Western refused to give in, stealing pass under its own basket and scoring with just 17.7 seconds on the clock.
Kane sealed the win with 14.4 seconds left, sinking a pair of free throws to complete the 48-41 final score. The victory - Eastern’s fifth in its last seven contests - improved the Eagles’ overall record to 8-5 heading into Wednesday night’s regular season finale at McMichael. Eastern stood tied with Morehead for second place in the Mid-State Conference standings following the triumph.