Eastern Alamance’s men’s and women’s basketball teams opened up the 2021 season this past week with a pair of Mid-State Conference games against Morehead and Northeast Guilford. For the EAHS women, it was the opening of what they hope will be a very promising season under longtime head coach Tim Krotish. There are also high hopes for the Eagles men’s squad as they get going under first-year varsity head coach Brad Costa.
The Eagles women’s squad hosted league rival Morehead in its season opener in Mebane. It was no contest, as Eastern dominated the overmatched Panthers on their way to a dominant 73-17 triumph. The game was never in doubt, as the Eagles broke out to an early 19-2 lead at the end of the opening period, and built the advantage up to 44-10 by halftime.
Eastern’s defense was impressive, keeping the Panthers at bay by consistently forcing turnovers - including 26 steals - and running the pace up and down the court. Morehead managed to hold EAHS to just 18 points in the third quarter, but the score was 62-16 as the final quarter began. The Eagles called off the dogs and played conservatively offensively in the fourth quarter, scoring just 11 points, but EAHS held Morehead without a field goal over the game’s final eight minutes, with just a single free throw allowed.
Laila Anderson paced the Eagles offensively with 29 points on 12-of-14 shooting from the floor, with most of her baskets coming in transition. Anderson also had five steals and dished out three assists, while making a pair of 3-pointers in three attempts. Fellow junior Hali Watkins stuffed the stat sheet and nearly produced a rare triple-double with eight points, 10 steals, eight rebounds, and five assists. Sophomore Tashawna Garner was also in double figures in scoring for Eastern with 13 points, including two 3-pointers, along with five rebounds and four steals. Jamea Thomas managed 11 of Morehead’s 17 points. She was one of just three Panther players to score over the course of the evening.
Eastern dominated again in its second game of the season - its home opener the evening of January 7 against Northeast Guilford. Again the EAHS defense was active and disruptive, forcing 20 Rams turnovers. With Anderson scoring 23 points and Watkins adding 13 points, the Eagles controlled the action on their way to a convincing 64-16 victory.
As they did against Morehead, the Eagles got off to a quick start, building a 24-4 lead heading into the second quarter. By halftime, the EAHS advantage was 42-11. Taking a 59-13 lead into the fourth quarter, the Eagles backed off again, scoring just five points in the final period. For the second straight game, the EAHS defense held its opponent to less than ten points in each of the four quarters of the contest. Through the first eight quarters of game action this season, the EAHS defense allowed a high of just eight points in a single quarter.
Anderson contributed four rebounds, three steals, and two assists along with her game-high scoring total, which came on 10-of-22 shooting, while Watkins added eight rebounds, five steals, and four assists along with 6-of-11 shooting from the field. Kyra Jones added seven points, five rebounds, and five steals.
The EAHS men’s squad opened up the season at home the evening of Tuesday, January 5 inside Tal Jobe Gymnasium against Morehead. It was a nip-and-tuck affair through the first three quarters, with the two teams trading the lead and the initiative. Eastern jumped out to an early 21-17 lead at the end of the first quarter, and claimed a 40-37 halftime lead.
EAHS managed to hang onto the lead 61-56 heading into the fourth quarter, but Morehead took control over the final eight minutes. Although the Eagles played hard, they allowed Morehead to score 28 points in the fourth quarter, and came up on the short end of an 84-78 final score.
Junior Darius Kane had a huge night for the Eagles, scoring 31 points on 11-of-19 shooting, along with eight rebounds and four assists, while junior Hunter Westbrooks and Josh Randolph scored 12 points each. Kane converted four 3-pointers over the course of the night, while Westbrooks and Randolph each connected on a pair of 3-pointers each.
Lebron Reels recorded a game-high 13 rebounds along with three steals for Eastern, while senior Camden Gerlach added three rebounds and four assists. Stefan McLaughlin led three Morehead players in double figures with 29 points, while Makel Smith added 16 points and Jaden Martin 14 points.
The Eagles got into the win column - while giving Costa his first victory as head coach of the EAHS varsity - on Thursday evening, as Eastern prevailed in a tough battle against Northeast Guilford, 56-54.
In a low-scoring affair, the two teams played to a 13-13 tie heading into the second quarter. Northeast took a 29-28 lead into halftime, and the visitors from McLeansville stretched its lead out to 43-37 heading into the fourth quarter. But Eastern made a spirited rally in the final period, outscoring Northeast 19-11 to win in dramatic fashion.
Kane again led the way for the Eagles against the Rams, scoring a game-high 24 points on stellar 11-of-14 shooting from the floor. Senior Evan Mann tallied eight points for EAHS in its winning cause, with a pair of key 3-pointers, while Camden Gerlach and Josh Randolph each scored seven points. Reels again led the way on the boards for Eastern with seven defensive rebounds, while Camden and Caleb Gerlach each had six rebounds. Amari Tate scored 14 points in a losing effort for Northeast Guilford.