Eastern High looking for success on hardwood this winter

Eastern Alamance’s winter sports will kick into high gear after the first of the year, with the Eagle men’s and women’s basketball teams opening conference play the first week of January. For the EAHS men’s squad, coming off a disappointing 10-15 season that resulted in the Eagles missing the state playoffs, 2021 marks the start of the Brad Costa era. Costa is replacing longtime head coach Jay McPherson, who made the decision to resign after last season. For the Eagles women’s team, coming off a 24-5 season that resulted in a Mid-State Conference tournament championship and a run to the third round of the NCHSAA 3A state playoffs, expectations are running sky high. The EAHS squads will be aided by key juniors such as Darius Kane (left) and Hali Watkins (right). 

Eastern Alamance’s winter sports will kick into high gear after the first of the year, with the Eagle men’s and women’s basketball teams opening conference play the first week of January. 

For the EAHS men’s squad, coming off a disappointing 10-15 season that resulted in the Eagles missing the state playoffs, 2021 marks the start of the Brad Costa era. Costa is replacing longtime head coach Jay McPherson, who made the decision to resign after last season.

Costa served five seasons as one of McPherson’s assistants with the Eagles varsity squad, and won back-to-back Mid-State Conference titles with the Eastern High junior varsity squad in 2018-19 and 2019-20 before assuming the varsity head coaching job. Costa will be working through his first Eagles varsity season with many of the players who helped him win those two Mid-State JV conference titles. 

For the Eagles women’s team, coming off a 24-5 season that resulted in a Mid-State Conference tournament championship and a run to the third round of the NCHSAA 3A state playoffs, expectations are running sky high. Despite playing in arguably the top women’s 3A conference in the state, front loaded with heavyweights such as Northern Guilford, Western Alamance, and Person County as well as the Eagles, Eastern is hopeful for another conference championship and an even deeper state playoff run. 

Head coach Tim Krotish returns most of the nucleus of last year’s squad, including the talented trio of then-sophomores who are now juniors. In Laila Anderson, Hali Watkins, and Amiyah Evans, Krotish has the benefit of one of the top returning trios in the region, if not the entire state. Anderson, Watkins, and Evans made tremendous strides over the course of the 2019-20 season as overachieving sophomores. Now, as juniors, they will look to carry their experience and familiarity with one another into yet another cohesive core group. 

Despite the loss of graduated senior Makenzy Tucker, the Eagles will return much of the remainder of last year’s squad, including now-seniors Ginia Lawson, Jordan Adams, and Makayla VanDusen, juniors Kyra Jones and Jenna Merchel, and sophomores Tashawna Garner, Anabella Mize, and Karsyn Johnson. 

While there is only one senior on the Eagles men’s varsity roster - Camden Gerlach - the EAHS roster includes nine juniors, including CeDarion Williams, James Deacon, Noah Allison, Hunter Westbrooks, Lebron Reels, Caleb Gerlach, Darius Kane, Ishmael Percy, and Hunter Douglas. Reels and Kane were key members of last season’s EAHS varsity squad, and will likely assume starting roles. Two sophomores - Josh Randolph and Devin Clark - are listed on the Eastern High varsity roster on MaxPreps.com, while one freshman - guard Trevion Cobb - has been promoted to the top squad.

The Eagles will have a bit more size heading into the new season, as at least five players - Reels, Douglas, Percy, Clark, and Randolph - come in at either 6-3 or 6-4. They will also be more experienced, with multiple returning contributors from last season’s varsity squad, along with the core group of players from the EAHS junior varsity team over the past couple seasons. 

Eastern will open the season with three straight home games. The Eagles will face off against Morehead in the season opener January 5, to be followed by two more contests inside Tal Jobe Gymnasium against Northeast Guilford the evening of January 8, and Person on January 12. From there, Eastern will travel to Northern Guilford on January 15 before returning to Mebane Tuesday, January 19 to play Rockingham County. Both the EAHS men’s and women’s squads have 14 conference games scheduled - a pair of home-and-home battles against its seven Mid-State Conference rivals - between January 5 and February 17.