Eastern Alamance ends Orange women’s season 58-33

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Updated: February 26, 2020

These are golden times for Eastern Alamance athletics.

Last spring, the softball team captured the 3A State Championship on the strength of freshman pitcher Kenna Rae Dark. On a 20-player roster, they had only four seniors.

Last fall, the football team rolled through the 3A/2A Mid-State Conference undefeated and advanced to the 3A Eastern Regional Championship, where they lost to Southern Nash 32-29 in Mebane. They finished 14-1.

This winter, the Eagles’ women’s basketball team served notice that they will be a force to be dealt with for years to come, if not sooner.

As in the next two weeks.

Starting four sophomores, the Eagles eliminated Orange from the NCHSAA 3A State Playoffs 58-33 on Tuesday night inside Tal Jobe Gymnasium in Mebane. Laila Anderson led the Eagles with 20 points, while classmate Amiyah Evans added 17.

The Eagles, who won the Mid-State Conference Tournament last week and earned a four-seed, will host Jacksonville White Oak on Thursday night in the second round.

Orange, which ended the year 11-13, trailed 13-7 at the end of the first quarter. Samatha George and Grace Andrews hit 3-pointers in the second quarter to cut Orange’s deficit to 17-13, but the Eagles went on a 13-2 run to finish the first half and led 30-15 at the half.

Orange went scoreless for the first 4:15 of the second half. Eastern rolled off a 10-0 run to open the third quarter and put the game away.

“(Coach) Tim (Krotish) does a great job over here,” said Orange Coach B.J. Condron. “They played solid man-to-man defense on us the whole game. We turned the ball over several times. I knew one of the keys to the game was us not turning the ball over. And we turned the ball over.”

It was the second year in a row that the Eagles defeated the Lady Panthers in the opening round of the state playoffs.

Sophomore guard Aaliyah Harris was the only Orange player in double figures with eleven points, which was a fitting way for the season to end. Harris was forced to take an increased scoring role after sophomore Mary Moss Wirt injured her knee against Carrboro on December 12. Despite her best efforts, Wirt missed Orange’s last 20 games.

Nonetheless, Orange made the state playoffs for the fourth time in five years despite numerous injuries.

Collectively, Orange starters missed 30 games due to injuries or other commitments in a 24-game season. That’s after losing four senior starters from last year.

It was also a young team. On Tuesday, Orange started three sophomores, a freshman and junior forward Jala Rainey. The only seniors were Grace Andrews and Brenna Mehl.

Nonetheless, the Lady Panthers carried Big 8 Champion Northwood to overtime on February 5 in Hillsborough, defeated Vance County 60-45 to start 2020 and had three competitive games with Chapel Hill.

The Tigers won its opening round state playoff game at Southern Wayne on Tuesday.

“I’ll remember this team’s resiliency,” Condron said. “They could have had a number of excuses to give up this season. But they didn’t. They battled. They didn’t give up. They made some games close that probably shouldn’t have been close and won some games that they probably shouldn’t have.”

Andrews still has softball season ahead. She claimed a state championship her freshman year as a starting 2nd baseman for the Lady Panthers.

While Mehl’s athletic career at Orange is over, her future is blindingly bright. With a 4.6 grade point average, she plans to attend UNC or N.C. State to study biomedical engineering.

EASTERN ALAMANCE 58, ORANGE 33

ORANGE: Aaliyah Harris 11, Samantha George 3, Jala Rainey 7, Erin Jordan-Cornell 5, Grace Andrews 7.

EASTERN ALAMANCE: Laila Anderson 20, Kara Jones 7, Hali Watkins 6, Amiyah Evans 17, MaKenzy Tucker 4, Tashawna Garner 2, Ginia Lawson 2.

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