Eastern knocks off Cedar Ridge for first win in Central Conference play

Eastern Alamance senior Caleb Gerlach led the way for the Eagles Friday night with a game-high 14 points as EAHS picked up its first conference win - a 58-54 triumph on the road at Cedar Ridge. The Eagles overcame a 19-8 first quarter deficit to tie the game 38-38 at halftime, and then went on a decisive 8-2 run in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to take command. The Eagles have a pair of home games inside Tal Jobe Gymnasium this week against Central Conference foes Person County and Northwood. 

On Friday night, the Eastern Alamance men’s basketball team returned to action, traveling to Hillsborough to face off against Central Conference foe Cedar Ridge, while the Eagles women’s team was sidelined. The Eagles men’s squad was forced to postpone its league matchup with Williams, initially scheduled for the evening of Tuesday, January 4 and then pushed back a night to Wednesday, January 5, as the EAHS program dealt with COVID-19 protocols. 

Following their quarantine, the Eagles came together and rallied for a big win, overcoming a double-digit first half deficit to beat Cedar Ridge, 58-54, for their first-ever victory in the new Central Conference. 

The Eagles, having not played for a week, were a little sluggish in the early going, falling behind 17-8 in the first quarter behind a flurry of turnovers. Cedar Ridge took a double-digit lead in the second quarter before EAHS got going, slowly working into the early Red Wolves advantage. 

Following a free throw by Kasen McCawley, Caleb Gerlach grabbed an offensive rebound for the Eagles and scored to pull Eastern within 19-11. Gerlach added another score for the Eagles, and then McCawley scored on two free throws and a drive to the basket for a 9-0 Eagles run and a 19-17 score. The Eagles hung within 21-19 heading towards halftime, but a late rally by the Red Wolves gave the home team a 27-21 lead at the half. 

Eastern continued to fight its way back in the third quarter, managing to tie the game at 38-38 heading into the fourth quarter. Then the Eagles settled the issue with a rally at the free throw line early in the fourth quarter, as the visitors took a 46-40 lead midway through the final period. A pair of free throws by Gerlach early in the fourth quarter gave him double digits in scoring, and the Eagles had a 41-38 lead. 

Gerlach followed on the other end with a defensive rebound, and McCawley added another pair of free throws to reach double figures in scoring himself. Justin Andrews came through with a key blocked shot on a layup attempt by Cedar Ridge, while Pugh sank a free throw to make the score 44-40. A layin by Andrews following a steal by McCauley gave the Eagles a six-point edge. 

Cedar Ridge had an opportunity at the free throw line to get within one possession down the stretch, but were unable to convert. Gerlach came through with a key layin to give EAHS a 49-44 lead in the final two minutes, but the Red Wolves countered quickly on a basket by Garrett Ray. Fortunately for the Eagles, Michael Reaves came through with a bucket, which kept the Red Wolves at bay. 

Leading 51-48 as the clock wound down towards the final minute, the Eagles broke a full-court press by the Red Wolves and Reaves got another critical basket, making the score 53-48. Following a Cedar Ridge basket, Gerlach scored again, keeping EAHS ahead by five. McCawley added a pair of huge free throws, which gave Eastern a 57-50 lead with under a minute to play. 

After CRHS scored again, the Eagles managed to milk several important seconds off the clock under the Red Wolves managed to foul McCawley with just 12.2 seconds left. McCawley made one, which gave Eastern a 58-52 lead, but Cedar Ridge got a basket with just 0.8 seconds on the clock. 

The Red Wolves caught a break, as McCawley was called for a foul before the Eagles could inbound the ball. Trailing by four, 58-54, the Red Wolves needed a miracle, and Eastern managed to avoid committing a foul, and Rawlins Taylor’s shot missed its mark as time expired. 

Eastern improved to 4-8 with the win, and picked up its first triumph of the season in Central Conference play, improving to 1-1. Cedar Ridge slipped to 3-7 overall, and 0-4 in Central Conference games. 

Caleb Gerlach was the leader offensively for Eastern Alamance with 16 points to go along with 10 rebounds for a double-double, while Kasen McCawley and Antoine Pugh added 13 points each for the victorious Eagles. Colton Taylor was in double figures for Cedar Ridge with 12 points, as was Garrett Ray and Neco Clark, who had 11 and 10 points, respectively. 

The Eagles have a pair of Central Conference home games scheduled this week, as the Eagles will host Person County Tuesday night inside Tal Jobe Gymnasium before hosting Northwood on Friday night.