HAGERSTOWN — Being on the wrong end of one buzzer-beating 3-pointer is bad luck. Watching the opponent sink two of the long-range momentum clinchers is a sign.
It just wasn’t meant to be for Eastern Hancock on Tuesday in the Class 2A Sectional 41 first round at Hagerstown.
Union County, with the help of those last-second 3-pointers, not to mention a decisive rebounding edge, got past the Royals 55-41 to advance to Friday’s semifinal.
“It set a tone,” Eastern Hancock coach Aaron Spaulding said. “If they don’t get those two shots and it’s a three-point game at half, you’ve got a whole different perspective going in. It was kind of one of those nights where balls were bouncing around and going in for them, and they didn’t go in for us.”
The looks that did go the Royals’ way were mostly limited to the early going, with Cole Fout notching seven points to stake Eastern Hancock to a 16-15 advantage as the first quarter wound down. Instead of taking a lead into the changeover, however, the Royals (10-13) trailed 18-16 on Bryce Fields’ halfcourt 3-pointer that went through the net as the horn went off.
Plagued by a miserable offensive second quarter – the Royals made one field goal – they were fortunate to be trailing only 26-20 as halftime approached. Logan Sanford sent Union County (13-11) into halftime, however, on a high note and a 29-20 lead on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, this one from the usual distance.
“I thought we guarded pretty well most of the night,” Spaulding said. “We had a few breakdowns, in the first half especially.”
The Patriots, who advanced to Friday’s semifinal against No. 5-ranked Northeastern (20-3), opened the third quarter on an 8-1 run, capped by an Evan Felton 3-pointer. Union County led 39-27 heading to the fourth quarter and was in control throughout.
Despite the Patriots’ deft arc work, the Royals relied much more on the 3-pointer. In the game’s final 26 minutes, the Royals sank one 2-point field goal. The rest of their scoring came via seven 3-pointers and a pair of free throws.
“All year long we’ve struggled getting the ball inside,” Spaulding said. “We’ve struggled against zones, and we did again tonight. Give credit to Union County, but that’s kind of been our Achilles Heel.”
With the Royals kept out of the paint, Union County enjoyed a 28-12 rebounding edge.
Sanford led the Patriots with 16 points. Nevada Lakes had nine points. And Fields notched eight points and a game-high eight rebounds.
Fout, one of eight Eastern Hancock seniors, finished with a team-best 10 points. Fellow senior Derrik Noel had eight poins. Austin Lacy, a senior, and and Ryan Speas, a junior, had six points each. Senior Cooper Henderson pulled down five rebounds.
Addison True, a freshman guard and Eastern Hancock’s leading scorer this season, was held to two points.
“I think the whole thing was (Union County) knew we have some guys who can shoot the ball,” Spaulding said. “So, I think what they did was they just made sure they got out to our shooters to not give us any looks. I think they really made a conscience effort to get out on all of our kids, didn’t give us good looks, and keep us off the boards.”
Union County will aim to avenge a 64-54 loss to Northeastern from Feb. 12. The Knights are without 6-foot-6 sixth-man Robert Smith, who recently suffered a broken collarbone.
The other semifinal match will be decided tonight with Knightstown (15-7) facing Hagerstown (16-4) and Centerville (13-8) against Cambridge City (8-13) in the quarterfinal matchups.
Class 4A Sectional 9 at New Castle
Richmond (21-3) vs. New Castle (9-11), 7 p.m.
Pendleton Heights (17-6) vs. Connersville (14-10), 6 p.m.
Greenfield-Central (10-14) vs. Anderson (5-18), to follow
Mt. Vernon (13-8) vs. RI-NC winner, 6 p.m.
PH-CO winner vs. GC-AN winner, to follow
Championship, 7:30 p.m.
Winner advances to Southport Regional
Class 4A Sectional 13 at Whiteland
Whiteland (10-12) vs. Franklin Central (5-15), 6 p.m.
Center Grove (13-9) vs. New Palestine (11-11), to follow
Franklin (10-13) vs. WH-FC winner, 6 p.m.
Greenwood (3-20) vs. CG-NP winner, to follow
Championship, 7 p.m.
Winner advances to Seymour Regional
Class 2A Sectional 41 at Hagerstown
Eastern Hancock (10-12) vs. Union County (12-11), 7 p.m.
Knightstown (15-7) vs. Hagers-town (16-4), 6 p.m.
Centerville (13-8) vs. Cambridge City Lincoln (8-13), to follow
Northeastern (20-3) vs. EH-UC winner, 6 p.m.
KN-HA winner vs. CE-CCL winner, to follow
Championship, 7:30 p.m.
Winner advances to Greenfield-Central Regional