Royals set pace, open new year with win

For The Daily Reporter

MUNCIE — After a brutal end to their 2015, a stretch that included games against three top-15 teams in Class 2A, the Eastern Hancock Royals boys’ basketball team was ready to start 2016 off on the right foot.

The Royals did just that with their 71-55 thumping of the Muncie Burris Owls. Patient basketball, good defense and excellent shooting all played a part in the Royals victory but it was their defense that really sealed the deal.

“Our goal coming in was 55 (points),” Eastern Hancock coach Aaron Spaulding said. “We’ve got to improve defensively, we thought if we could hold teams to 55 points then we could win some games. We held them right at 55 so I’m proud of our team for that.”

In the opening and closing quarters was when the Royals were at their best defensively. Combined, the Royals (3-5) held the Owls to 6-for-24 from the field compared to 15-30 in the middle periods.

Yet, while the Royals have been painstakingly working on their defense, their lights-out shooting sucked the air out of any potential late comeback by the Owls (5-4) in the second half.

Shooting 8 of 16 from beyond the arc and 21-for-25 from the stripe, the Royals only had one hiccup, in the second quarter, where poor ball handling cost them some chances to score.

“That’s this team’s strength,” Spaulding explained of his team’s shooting prowess. “It’s something that they do well naturally whether it’s at the foul line or the 3-point line, if we’re patient and get good shots then we’re going to hit them.”

A.J. Muegge led the Royals with 18 points but he wasn’t the only double-digit scorer for the Royals.

All five starters finished in double figures. Addison True chipped in 17 points but also hauled in a team-high 12 rebounds for the Royals.

The 5-foot-10-inch guard was almost always the smallest player on the court at any given time but still outrebounded them all.

“He’s our leading rebounder this year, and he’s averaging about eight a game,” Spaulding stated. “He’s the best rebounding guard we’ve ever had here. He really gets up there and we put him in the bottom of our zone because he really is our best rebounder.”

The Royals will play their first Mid-Hoosier Conference game of the season this afternoon against North Decatur. The game is part of the Really Big Basketball Show at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.