For The Daily Reporter
CHARLOTTESVILLE — For the second weekend in a row, the Eastern Hancock Royals squared off against the No. 1 ranked team in Class 2A.
While the result may have been the same, Eastern Hancock, which fell to Northeastern 79-60, believes facing stiff competition early on will only help come tourna-ment time.
“We lost by 30-plus last week, but tonight we’re only down eight points in the third quarter,” Eastern Hancock coach Aaron Spaulding said afterwards.
The Royals used their guard play to head into halftime down only three points, despite Northeastern using a second-quarter run to threaten to put the game away.
After going down seven points early in the quarter, guards Addison True and A.J. Muegge made shot after shot to keep the Royals within striking distance.
True would finish with 15 points and three rebounds while Muegge would finish with a team high 20 points and five rebounds.
Northeastern’s usual star, Tyler Smith, an IUPUI and Ball State recruit, was held mostly quiet throughout the night, going into the fourth quarter with only two points. Smith would finish with 12 points, scoring ten points in the fourth quarter when the game already was decided.
The Knights began to pull away for good in the third quarter by receiving help from some unheralded sources. Robert Smith and Bailey Stewart scored 45 of Northeastern’s 79 points, despite coming into the game as the team’s third and fourth leading scorers, respectively.
“When we had to go out and force the action is when we really started to struggle,” Spaulding said.
Despite the loss, Spaulding believes playing this level of competition can only help his team going forward.
“We had less turnovers than we did against Howe and our guys saw how much closer tonight’s game was,” Spaulding said.“We had less turnovers than we did against Howe and our guys saw how much closer tonight’s game was,” Spaulding said. “If we continue to cut down on turnovers and work on rebounding, I think we can get better throughout the year and we will be in position at the end of the games to go and win.”
The schedule stays interesting for the Royals, as they next take the court Friday at home against arch-rival Knightstown.