While this season has produced far fewer victories than preferred for Brooke Sanderson and her East Wake Academy teammates, the senior did her part to make the final home game of the regular season a memorable one for the Eagles.
The four-year starter scored 12 points to complement freshman Sydney Brantley’s game-high 18 as EWA defeated visiting Woods Charter School, 36-32, in a North Central Athletic Conference girls basketball game on Tuesday.
All of Sanderson’s 12 points came in the first half as EWA (5-18, 2-13 NCAC) built a double-digit lead before withstanding a pair of rallies by Woods Charter (1-17, 1-14).
“We’ve grown so much this season and to finish here at home, on Senior Night, with a win and have this fanbase here, I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Sanderson said. “This has gone by unbelievably fast. I’m sad to see it go but I will cherish the memories I’ve made with these girls.”
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In the boys contest, Woods Charter scored the game’s first 14 points en route to a 38-20 victory. Cameron McNeil scored 16 points to lead the Wolves (3-14, 3-12). EWA fell to 3-20 overall and remained winless in the NCAC.
EWA girls build early cushion
Sanderson, who was honored after the game with fellow seniors Tori Brown and Taylor Sabia, was on her game offensively in the early going as EWA jumped out to a significant early advantage.
The senior forward scored nine points in the opening frame, including a three-pointer that was followed moments later by a steal and coast-to-coast drive for a bucket late in the quarter that helped the Eagles take a 17-5 lead.
Woods Charter answered with 10 straight points to open the second quarter to draw within two with 3:40 remaining. EWA, however, responded with 14 straight points with Brantley a big part of the surge.
Brantley hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 3:30 left in the half to halt the Wolves’ run, then early in the third quarter scored six straight points to cap the 14-point run that gave EWA a 31-15 advantage.
“We were able to move the ball better this season and get some good stops on defense that we didn’t have last time we played them,” said Brantley, whose team lost at Woods Charter, 36-27, on Jan. 8. “I was smarter with the ball this time I believe. Last game, I took some horrible shots but I was better with my decisions this time.”
EWA led by double digits almost the rest of the way, the score tightening in the closing minute thanks to eight unanswered points by Woods Charter that made things just a little interesting. Ellie Cummins had 12 points to lead Woods Charter.
EWA coach Bradley Bowman believes his team has made significant strides since the start of the season.
“Obviously at the beginning of the season we struggled a lot, so we changed our defensive philosophy the second half of the season,” Bowman said. “Toward the beginning we were a high-pressure, man-to-man team; second half of the season we slowed the tempo and played more of a zone. We’re definitely playing our best basketball now, a good sign heading into the conference tournament.”
Woods Charter flips script in boys game
EWA’s boys weren’t able to match the girls outcome, done in largely by a lengthy scoring drought against Woods Charter.
The Eagles scored their first points on a Hayden Peterson layup with 6:50 remaining in the second quarter. Prior to that, Woods Charter had scored 14 straight points, with McNeil tallying six and Fleet Morgan adding five.
EWA did get within 16-12 on a Garrett Crowder basket off an offensive rebound in the opening seconds of the third quarter, but Woods Charter followed with a 12-3 run to take a 28-15 lead with 2:40 remaining in the quarter and the Wolves led by double digits the rest of the way.
Brian Wolf had 10 points to lead EWA.