By Derrick Mahone
Eagle's Landing coach Lisa Horton could sense her team was nervous about Tuesday's season opener against perennial playoff contender Woodward. She watched as the team nervously walked around campus for most of the school day.
Once on the court at the Eagle's Nest Gymnasium, the Lady Golden Eagles looked far from a team playing its first game against an opponent that had three games under its belt.
Markeya Price converted a three-point play early in the first quarter that gave Eagle's Landing the lead for good as it cruised to a 62-39 win over the War Eagles for Horton's first win over the private College Park school. Not only was this the first game of the year, but it was also a Region 4-AAA contest.
"We looked better than I expected," said Horton, who is entering her seventh season at the school. "I was definitely impressed with our defense. We got to work some on the offense, but we played a good game."
The Golden Eagles were led by Mia Adams, who finished with a game-high 22 points while Arkia Armstrong contributed 20 points, with all but two coming from beyond the 3-point line. Price finished with 12 points.
"That is Arkia's game, making 3-pointers while Mia gets hers off of layups," Horton said. "The girls were walking around nervous most of the day, but this win gives them a big confidence boost."
Eagle's Landing is expected to challenge for its first state playoff berth since the 2000 season with four returning starters including leading scorers Adams and Armstrong. Last season, the Golden Eagles were one victory from reaching the state playoffs.
"The biggest difference this season is that I have a bench," Horton said. "This year I feel confident when I put someone off my bench into the game at anytime. I feel we can keep the momentum going."
Horton's team was able to keep Woodward off balance the entire game with its zone press defense as the offense was able to handle the War Eagles 2-3 zone. When Armstrong wasn't connecting from beyond the arc, Adams was making driving layups.
A big concern for Horton coming into the game was the fact that Woodward (0-4) had played three previous games.
"They had some court experience this season," Horton said. "Woodward also has a lot of tradition. They are an excellent program. This win is very exciting for us. We are now 1-0 in the region. There are not too many teams that can say that."
Woodward coach Jonathan Merrill said this is probably the youngest team that he has fielded during his tenure.
"We don't have much varsity experience," he said. "We just need to play some games and we must improve. We need to improve in all parts of the game."
In the boys' game, Verdis Morgan scored a game-high 16 points to lead Eagle's Landing to a 55-38 win over Woodward. The Golden Eagles led 30-25 at halftime to cruise to the win. Woodward got a team-high 12 points from Stanton Davis, as the War Eagles dropped their first game of the season after starting with three wins.
Horton said there will not be much time for celebrating as the Golden Eagles return to the court for Region 4-AAA games on the road against South Atlanta and Jackson this weekend.
"I told the girls in the locker room to enjoy this win, but let's keep in mind that it was our first game of the season," Horton said. "I know our region is tough. I told them to enjoy it tonight, because we come back in the gym tomorrow and go back to work. This was a good test for us. There is no room for era in the next two games."