Eagles Win Two Playoff Games to Cap Historic Season - TribPapers

Eagles Win Two Playoff Games to Cap Historic Season

A trio of local all-conference players hustle to fight for a loose ball. NHHS Knight Noah Pierce is flanked by irval East Eagles Wyatt Taylor, the redhead at left, and Caiden Brewer at right. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

East Flat Rock – East (24-6; 12-2 M7) shattered the program record for most victories in a season by a half-dozen wins. Coach Jones, in his fifth season leading East, instilled disciplined and tight defense and patient passing to find open shots.

The Eagles tied West Henderson for the regular-season Mountain Seven title at 10-2, and edged the arch-rival Falcons 47-45 in the M7 tournament “Bird Bowl” finals. That earned East the league’s top seed in 3A playoffs.

Eagle Caiden Brewer is the player of the year in District 12 across western North Carolina, and in the league. The 6-1 junior guard scored consistently in three playoff games – 24, 23, then 22 points. He drives well to the basket. Brewer led all M7 players in scoring throughout the season, averaging 25 points. He averaged 7.7 rebounds — outstanding for a guard — and 4.6 assists, 3.3 steals and nearly one block per contest.

Brewer also excelled in multiple ways in playoffs. In the 56-49 opening win over Oak Grove, he dished out seven assists, made four steals, and snared five rebounds.

Defense Stifles Foes

Jones was proud of the defense in the two playoff wins. In the opener, “we completely took away their 6-foot-6, 275-pound forward J.B. Shabazz.” He scored merely five points. East fronted him to keep passes away. “We also did a solid job” on a star guard, Jones said. “We were the better team,” deserving victory.

Senior Eagle wing Brady Nix had a big game with 11 points, three blocks, and six rebounds. Chase Evans contributed eight rebounds and seven points.

The round-two triumph was 51-48 over athletic Northwest Cabarrus, which relied on inside scoring but typically struggled to hit outside shots. “We had a really good game plan defensively, to keep them out of the lane,” Coach Jones said. “We packed the paint, and made them shoot contested shots outside the lane. We played well defensively throughout the night.”

On offense, Brewer scored 23 and Nix added ten points. In round three, also at home, Brewer scored 22 points. This time the main complimentary scorer was fellow guard Wyatt Taylor, with 11. That exceeded his average by three points.

It was not enough. Extra-athletic Ben L. Smith ousted East 64-44. East outscored Smith 16-15 in the second quarter, and was within six points at halftime. Coach Jones said, “Their style of play was very disruptive for us — offensively and defensively. They played nine guys often. It wore us down late in the second half.”

Still, Coach Jones said, “I’m really proud of how the guys responded to adversity during the course of that game. I couldn’t ask for a better group, to accomplish the things we did this season.”

Local Honorees

All five starting Eagles earned all-Mountain Seven honors. They are Brewer, Taylor, Nix, Sumner, and Joseph Justice.

The three Henderson County teams in the M7 led the league in standings. East was 13-2 including the conference tournament. Defending league champion West Henderson (18-8 overall) was 11-3 overall in M7 games. Third-place North Henderson (20-7) reached the 20-win plateau. The Knights were 9-3 in M7 play, and 10-4 after the league tourney.

Collectively, these three schools produced more than half (eight of 15) of the seven-team league’s double-digit scorers. They are Brewer (25 PPG), West’s Jack Lyda (19.3) and Grant Putnam (15); Knights Noah Pierce (18), Bryson Rowe (12) and Zion McDaniel (11.8); and West’s Truitt Manuel (11.8) and Tyler Nash (10.2 PPG).

Manuel was the M7 defensive player of the year. Those top four Falcon scorers all made all-conference. Baseball all-staters Manuel and Lyda and also Putnam are on the top-ranked baseball Falcons, the reigning 3A state champions.

All-District Domination

Three of the five district first-team basketball honorees from all four classifications are from Henderson County. They are Brewer, West’s Lyda, and 6-6 center Malachi Simpson of 2A Hendersonville. Pierce, a sophomore sensation, is second-team all-district.

West Lady Falcons (19-8; 11-1 M7) won the league and their playoff opener. Jaza Wilson tied for the league lead in scoring at 14.6. She made second-team all-region. East’s Kaylee Foushee was third-best at 14 points.

Bearcat Stars

The fourth Henderson County public high school, Hendersonville (19-8), was second in Mountain Foothills boys’ standings at 9-3, and 12-3 overall after winning the league tournament. HHS was led by post stars Simpson (21 PPG), an adept-dunking junior, and burly senior C.J. Landrum (16.4). They were in the top four among MFC scorers. They combined for over 20 rebounds per game.

Lady Bearcats had one of their finest seasons in a while, finishing 17-10 overall. They were the MFC runner-up at 11-4 overall, including 9-3 in the regular season. Guard A.J. Jackson was a sparkplug.

The Lady Cats and HHS, NHHS and West boys all fell in round one, while East boys advanced.