Firebirds' run ends at Eastern Alamance

By Conor O’Neill

Burlington Times-News

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MEBANE – As a four-year varsity player for Eastern Alamance’s boys’ basketball team, Jacob Mann knew a run was coming from Southern Nash on Saturday night.

“I always get a little nervous, especially when we’re up like that (by 17 at halftime), because against a team where they know it might be their last game, they’re going to do everything they can,” Mann said. “We knew they had a run in them, we just had to answer it long enough to where we could pull away.”

Mann basically became the singular answer to Southern Nash’s run, scoring the Eagles’ first 14 points of the second half and helping Eastern Alamance to a 76-50 victory in the third round of the NCHSAA 3-A state playoffs.

The top-seeded Eagles (28-1) will play host to Southern Durham, a 71-51 winner at Asheboro on Saturday night. It’s the third time in the last four seasons that Eastern Alamance has reached the regional semifinals, with the Eagles falling in that round each previous time.

There was a three-point play, a 3-pointer and a stretch of three buckets across 46 seconds by Mann in the first five minutes of the third quarter. The senior forward was clapping for the ball on post-ups, followed his misses twice with put-backs and in that span, four of his six field goals came in possessions after Southern Nash (17-9) scored.

The answers were delivered, and the rest of the Eagles recognized where the ball had to end up on each possession.

“Jacob was really getting on a good streak, and in my head I was thinking, ‘Just give him the ball,’ “ said senior Rashad Reed, who scored 14 points. “Every time he got it down there, he was scoring back-to-back.”

The closest Southern Nash came in the third quarter was 13, and with the Eagles never relaxing from a fast pace, Eastern Alamance was able to stretch the lead to as much as 31 in the fourth quarter.

Looking for fast-break opportunities is nothing new for the Eagles, but it was an emphasis against the Firebirds.

“I talked to them before the game about good shell (defense), boxing out and really pushing the pace on them, because ... I felt like that would be very advantageous for us,” Eastern Alamance coach Jay McPherson said.

Eastern Alamance opened a 22-10 lead by the end of the first quarter, with John Lamot scoring seven of the team’s first nine points. He finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Mann joined him in the double-double category with 11 rebounds.

The lead reached 20 twice in the second quarter, when Hayden Mann scored seven of his 12 points.

Jacob Mann’s only points in the first half came on a 3-for-4 mark at the free-throw line. That was part of what made his third-quarter burst impressive.

“I definitely was trying to get it inside in the first half, and ... the way we were playing in the first half, we were doing great stuff, it just wasn’t through the inside,” Mann said. “We knew their best player started guarding me, so we started getting it in the paint and I started getting a little confidence.

“I kept wanting it in the post and they kept feeding me. I just kept getting bucket after bucket, trying to answer their buckets.”

Southern Nash was led by Marquise Wright’s 20 points, while Damien Bryant scored 11.

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break Robbie Kennedy. Hate you had to ride home after getting slaughtered in Mebane.

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