After spending two weeks away from game action due to COVID-19 protocols, the Eastern Alamance women’s basketball team got back to action this week and picked up where it left off. When the Eagles were forced to stop playing in late January after coming into contact with an opposing team that had a positive COVID-19 test, there were sporting a perfect 6-0 record and sat atop the Mid-State Conference. Following victories this week over Rockingham and at Western Alamance, Tim Krotish’s Eagles remain undefeated and in first place in their league, poised to make a return to the NCHSAA 3A state playoffs for another winter.
Returning to action the evening of Tuesday, February 9 at Rockingham, the Eagles showed some rust coming off their two-week layoff, as the visitors from Mebane trailed the Cougars, 13-12, at the end of the first quarter. But the Eagles regrouped with their usual stellar defense, as EAHS held Rockingham to only 17 points over the game’s final 24 minutes. Eastern built a 30-19 halftime lead against the Cougars on the strength of an 18-6 run during the second quarter.
Although the third quarter was relatively evenly played - Eastern took a 40-27 lead into the fourth quarter - the Eagles pulled away over the final eight minutes. Utilizing their usual combination of aggressive defense and transition scoring, the Eagles outscored the Cougars 17-3 over the game’s final eight minutes to pull away for a 57-30 triumph. The win improved Eastern’s overall mark to 7-0.
Junior Laila Anderson led three Eagles in double-figure scoring against Rockingham with 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting, while Kyra Jones added 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting, and fellow eleventh grader Hali Watkins contributed 10 points on 5-of-14 shooting from the floor, along with seven rebounds and two blocked shots. Jones converted two 3-pointers and added eight rebounds in the victory, while Amiyah Evans added seven boards to go along with seven points. EAHS was once again unselfish, with 14 assists over the course of the night, while combining for 15 steals, which led to numerous easy scoring chances.
For the most part, the Eagles haven’t been tested much this season. Through their first seven contests, the Eagles were giving up less than 29 points per outing, and had an average margin of victory of more than 33 points. Only Northern Guilford - who pushed the Eagles into double overtime in Greensboro on January 15 - had given EAHS a game. But that changed Wednesday night in Elon, as the Eagles got all they could handle from a Western Alamance squad poised to pull off a major upset.
The game was close throughout the first half, as neither team could pull away. Western proved a viable foe from the outset, taking a 12-10 lead into the second quarter, and a 24-18 lead into halftime. The Eagles clawed their way back in the third quarter, moving within 33-31 as the fourth quarter began.
The final period was an offensive explosion, as both teams got hot and seemingly couldn’t miss for several possessions. The Eagles in particular were red-hot for the opening four minutes of the final period, building a 9-point lead before the Warriors got hot themselves and chipped away at the visitor’s edge. As the minutes wound down, Western Alamance completed their comeback and tied the game.
The offensive shootout came down to the final seconds, with the teams tied at 55-55. In a critical sequence of events, Amiyah Evans came up with a key steal and was fouled with less than a second on the clock before she could attempt a potential game-winning attempt.
In a highly-charged, big pressure moment, Evans coolly stepped to the line and drained a pair of huge free throws, which proved to be the difference. Eastern maintained its unblemished mark with a 57-55 win, which kept the Eagles alone atop the Mid-State Conference standings with a perfect 8-0 mark. Hali Watkins had a monster game against the Warriors, scoring 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds to complete a double-double. She added a pair of steals and a pair of assists.
Laila Anderson was EAHS’s other double-digit scorer with 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting and two 3-pointers. The junior point guard also contributed two rebounds, two assists, and a steal. Amiyah Evans added seven points, while Ginia Lawson came up huge on the glass with six key offensive rebounds for the Eagles.
Eastern will play its third game in four nights on Friday, as they travel along with the EAHS men’s squad to Morehead for the program’s final conference game against the Panthers. From there, the Eagles have a rematch with Western Alamance Monday evening on Senior Night inside Tal Jobe Gymnasium, and close out the regular season Wednesday with a road matchup at McMichael. From there, the Eagles are looking to return to the state playoffs and make an even deeper run than last year’s rally to the third round, which ended with a home loss against eventual NCHSAA 3A East Regional champion Jacksonville.