Eastern edges opponents in early season

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Eastern Alamance’s boys’ basketball team has been in a bunch of tight situations across the first few weeks of the season.

The Eagles have turned out pretty good at evaluating how to deal with those.

“When you’re challenged, you either rise or you fold,” coach Brad Costa said.

Eastern churned out a 35-32 victory against host Western Alamance on Friday night to begin its Central Carolina 3-A Conference schedule.

That result stretched the Eagles’ overall record to 7-1. Western dropped to 1-7, 0-2.

“We still pulled it out,” Eastern guard Antoine Pugh said. “Our defense was big.”

After losing a one-point decision to visiting Southern Alamance in their second game of the season, the Eagles have rattled off six consecutive victories. Three of those have come by three points or less.

“We fight through,” Eastern forward Cole McGinnis said. “Our whole team is coming around and we play tough.”

They led most of the time against Western, but every basket seemed precious for both teams. There were times down the stretch when the Warriors were firing away with a chance to snatch the lead.

The Eagles just kept playing defense.

“They’ve been in those situations and they know how to cope,” Costa said of his players. “You’re playing a rival, and it’s a packed gym.”

Michael Reaves led Eastern’s scoring with 13 points. His putback of his own missed shot was one of the key sequences that helped the Eagles stay in front in the fourth quarter.

Costa said Western Alamance has a reputation as a stellar defensive team, so the Eagles needed to match that.

“We are a good defensive team,” he said.

Elijah Wade scored 13 points for Western, which shot 22.6 percent (12-for-53) from the field. Wade accounted for three of the Warriors’ four 3-point baskets.

There was a capacity crowd, with dozens of fans waiting outside until some patrons departed following the girls’ game and more room was available.

The Eagles had won only once in the previous six meetings with Western, including setbacks in both clashes last season. Both teams are entered in next week’s Holiday Hoopla at Eastern Alamance.

Pugh and McGinnis are the only seniors on Eastern’s roster. They also both were late joining preseason basketball practices because they were members of the school’s football team that played into the third round of the Class 3-A state playoffs.

“We’re kind of trying to get back into it,” McGinnis said of the basketball.

“Basketball conditioning is way different than football,” Pugh said.

In the girls’ game, Western posted a 66-36 romp behind 20 points from Allie Sykes and 18 points from Tina Bowers. Eastern received 14 points from Tashawna Gardner and 12 points from Makayia Thompson.