Coming off a dangerously-close battle on the road last week at archrival Western Alamance, undefeated Eastern Alamance made things much easier on themselves Monday night, as the Eagles controlled the tempo and dominated throughout much of the first three quarters on their way to a convincing 66-55 triumph. The victory improved Eastern’s overall mark to 10-0 heading into Wednesday night’s regular season finale at McMichael.
The win was also a celebration for Eastern High seniors Ginia Lawson and Makayla Vandusen, who played their final regular season contests inside Tal Jobe Gymnasium. But thanks to Eastern’s lofty record, the pair of seniors are optimistic that they still have unfinished business at home in the form of upcoming NCHSAA 3A state playoff battles.
As they’ve done all season, the Eagles used their speed, aggressive defense, and transition attack to take control early on. Eastern parlayed a 13-5 lead after one quarter of play into a dominant second quarter effort, as they outscored the visiting Warriors 20-7 over the eight-minute stretch. Eastern led 33-12 at halftime.
Leading by 21 points heading into the third quarter, the Eagles put the game away in the opening minutes of the second half. Hali Watkins got it started with a pair of back-to-back baskets, including a nifty drive and lay-in. Leading 37-14, the Eagles got a basket in the paint from Lawson for a 25-point advantage at 39-14.
A steal by Amiyah Evans and nice pass ahead to Lawson made the count 41-14, forcing a Western Alamance timeout. A score in the paint by Makayla Thompson, along with a free throw by Kyra Jones, kept the Eagles ahead 44-18. Moments later, point guard Laila Anderson got her own rebound on a missed shot, and followed it up by going up and under the basket for a layin and a 46-20 EAHS advantage.
Eastern cooled off late in the third quarter, allowing Western to pull within 47-28, but Watkins scored again in the paint to give the Eagles a commanding 49-30 lead heading into the final period.
Anderson buried a long 3-pointer at the 6:50 mark for a 52-31 Eastern lead, but the Eagles got a little sloppy in the fourth quarter, turning the ball over multiple times. With just under five minutes to play, following a bad pass that sailed out of bounds, EAHS head coach Tim Krotish called a timeout to settle things down. Western had pulled within 56-39 at that point.
Leading by 16 points at 56-40, Eastern regained the initiative when Tashawna Garner got a steal on a Warriors set play, and passed ahead to Watkins, who drew a foul. Watkins made a free throw. Western got within 57-43 on a 3-pointer, but Watkins sank a pair of free throws to make the score 59-43, and then Lawson picked up a key steal and layup to give the Eagles a 61-45 advantage with 2:25 to play.
With the clock winding down, Western Alamance suddenly got hot, burying two 3-pointers, sandwiched around a nice pass from Garner to Lawson for an Eagles layup at the 2:00 mark. The Warriors 3-balls cut the EAHS lead to 63-51, and then Western got a steal and layup to pull within 10 points at 63-53.
Garner was fouled by the Warriors with 58.9 seconds left. She made both of the important free throws, stifling Western’s momentum and giving Eastern a 65-53 edge. The Warriors made another jumper to pull back within 10 points, but following a pair of missed throws by the Eagles, Evans got a huge steal for Eastern and was intentionally fouled with 27 seconds left. She made one of the charity shots for the final points of the night, and an 11-point Eagles triumph.
Late last week, Eastern improved to 9-0 with a 62-33 road triumph at Morehead. Although the Panthers hung somewhat close early on, trailing just 15-10 after one quarter of play, the Eagles took control in the second quarter, building a 31-18 halftime advantage. EAHS put the game away in the decisive third quarter, outscoring Morehead 14-5 over an eight-minute stretch to take a commanding 45-23 lead into the final period. The visiting Eagles scored 17 more points in the fourth quarter for the game’s final margin.
Laila Anderson led the way against Morehead with 17 points, four rebounds, and a whopping eight steals, while Amiyah Evans and Hali Watkins were also in double figures with 14 and 10 points, respectively. Evans, like Anderson, also had eight steals, while converting two 3-pointers, while Watkins contributed 11 rebounds for another double-double.
The Eagles look for an undefeated regular season Wednesday night, as well as the Mid-State Conference regular season title, when they travel to McMichael. The Eagles only played Northern Guilford once, handing the Nighthawks their only regular season loss thus far. If Eastern can prevail over the Phoenix on Wednesday, they will claim the Mid-State Conference regular season title, and the league’s berth in the NCHSAA state playoffs. It remains to be seen whether the game in Mebane against Northern Guilford will be made up prior to the announcement of the NCHSAA state playoff seedings and brackets on Saturday.