Curry guides E.A. to upset win

DANVILLE, Va. -- JamesOn Curry scored 42 points and neared a quadruple-double, leading Eastern Alamance to a stunning come-from-behind 89-84 upset over Reidsville Thursday afternoon in the first round of the Register & Bee Holiday Tournament.

"It's not an upset – it's a freaking major upset," E.A. coach John Moon exclaimed postgame. "It was a great win for us because we've been struggling."

The Eagles (1-6) had lost five straight entering the matchup with Reidsville, picked by some writers to win the state title in N.C. this year.

And Reidsville played like a title team early, with a full court press that smothered E.A. from the outset, forcing countless turnovers.

"The press really hasn't bothered us all year – until today," Moon said. "And we looked like we were being hunted."

The only reason the Eagles weren't run out of the gym in the first quarter was JamesOn Curry. Down 8-0 early, the future Tar Heel scored on back-to-back three-point plays. Moments later, he drilled a long jumper, followed by a putback and shortly thereafter banked in a driving layup.

At the end of the first quarter, E.A. trailed 25-16 and Curry had 14 points (5-for-6 from the field and 4-for-4 on free throws). The other basket? Curry had the assist.

"I feel I can score at will on anybody in man-to-man and that's how confident I am," Curry said afterwards. "I'm not a cocky person – I'm just self confident."

The Reidsville lead grew in the second quarter to 35-20, as the Eagles' turnovers mounted, while they were also getting badly outrebounded. But it wasn't for lack of hustle – rather it was lack of size. With his starting center quite ineffective on both ends of the court, Moon brought in the backup, who stands a very grounded 6-foot-1. Curry, essentially playing the combo guard spot, was the tallest E.A. player on the floor.

And while Curry didn't have the height the team needed, he did have the poise. The junior led a comeback not just with his prolific scoring, but with leadership. The fans here in Danville already knew Curry could score, as he had 59 points in the first round of this tournament last year, but this performance was far more impressive.

"He's a leader now," Moon said. "He's not just a great basketball player anymore – he's a leader to our kids. He's the guy that's huddling them, talking to them, in time outs telling everyone what to do.

"Shooting, ball handling, all that kind of stuff is there, but to be able to take a team and put them in your arms and talk to them and they respect what you say … they're seeing that in him."

The Eagles outscored Reidsville 20-10 in the final 5:15 of the second quarter, with only six of those points coming from Curry, to trail 45-40 at halftime.

"I've got to [get my teammates involved] because I'm the leader this year – I've got to lead both by example and lead [vocally]," Curry said.

Right out of the half, Curry scored E.A.'s first eight points to tie the game at 48-48 and two free throws from teammate Bryan Burney gave them their first lead of the game midway through the quarter.

Reidsville led 63-61 heading into the fourth quarter and Curry again came out strong, quickly hitting a three and dishing out two assists to give the Eagles a 70-65 advantage. But Reidsville had one surge left in them, once again forcing turnovers and dominating the offensive boards en route to an 12-3 run and a 77-73 lead.

But this time it wasn't Curry who saved the game for the Eagles – it was Shane Flippin.

Who? The unlikely hero was E.A.'s third-string center, with shaggy red hair covering his face and an awkwardness to his game that made the coach cringe.

"Our guys have to understand that we can't do it just because of [Curry] – they have to make contributions and make plays," Moon said. "They're not near the level of player he is – how many people are in high school basketball? But they've got to make plays and they did those things today."

Flippin had a fast-break assist, a baseline jumper and hit two free throws to notch the game at 79-79.

And then the ever-confident Curry finished Reidsville off, with a runner in the lane, a 15-foot jumper, a fancy assist and two free throws with 29.5 seconds remaining.

"We withstood [the early deficit], whittled back, got back into it and some of the other guys stepped up and made some plays," Moon said. "I thought we settled down and did some things we needed to do. We had some fast break opportunities and got to the free throw line. And I thought Curry stepped up and made some big plays."

Oh, yeah – Curry.

He stepped up to the tune of 42 points on 12-for-17 shooting (5-for-7 on three point attempts and 13-for-16 from the free throw line), 10 rebounds, more than six assists (one estimate had him at 10), eight steals, three blocks and six turnovers (four of which came in the first quarter).

The improvement in Curry's game is evident in a number of areas, even from just six months ago.

"One thing I love about basketball is you play and you learn – you're never too good at basketball, there's always something to work on" Curry said. "That's why I enjoy the game so much. I'm learning something new every day."

He's also noticeably stronger, having added weight to his frame.

"We got a new weight trainer and I've been lifting weights really hard," he said. "My bench went from 145 to 220 in six weeks."

Eastern Alamance plays in the semifinals in Danville Friday at 6:00 p.m against Magna Vista at the Grant Center, on the campus of Averett College.

"We certainly hope this gives us some confidence going into tomorrow night," Moon said.

Stay tuned to Inside Carolina Friday night for a full report.


For archived stories on Curry, head to the JamesOn Curry Profile.

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