INDIANAPOLIS — Being able to effectively execute in the second half is paramount for any successful basketball team. However, the first half is important too.
A slow start, followed by a three-point second quarter, was enough to put Eastern Hancock in a hole it could not climb out of against North Decatur on Saturday at the Really Big Basketball Show at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. And despite outscoring the Chargers by four points in the second half, the Royals suffered a 57-44 Mid-Hoosier Conference loss.
Sophomore guard Addison True scored a team-high 14 points but a 14 of 51 shooting effort was too much to overcome against one of the conference’s top teams.
“There were a few times today where maybe we got caught in the moment and took some shots we shouldn’t have taken,” Eastern Hancock head coach Aaron Spaulding said. “That comes with experience. It really took us the first half to kind of settle down. We did much better in the second half.
“Anytime you get to play on a big league floor, that’s a fun experience. It’s a wonderful facility; my experience is a gym is a gym, though. You have to execute no matter where you are.”
Junior forward Dillon Merritt led the Chargers (7-4, 5-0 MHC) with 21 points, including 10 in the first quarter. He led North Decatur to 8 of 12 shooting in the opening quarter, giving the Chargers a 20-10 advantage.
The Royals (3-6, 0-3 MHC) were 4-for-14 from the field in the first quarter and followed it up with a 1 of 10 effort in the second to build the 30-13 halftime hole. Senior forward Tom Barton, who finished with nine points for Eastern Hancock, hit the lone basket in the second quarter — a 3-pointer with just under five minutes before the break.
“I did not think we were patient,” Spaulding said. “We have to cut hard and take good shots.”
The Royals did just that after halftime, digging into the Chargers’ lead just minutes into the third quarter. After baskets from sophomore guard A.J. Muegge, who finished with nine points, Barton and senior guard Ryan Speas, Eastern Hancock cut the deficit to 34-23 with 4:10 remaining in the quarter.
True would nail a 3-pointer on the ensuing Royals’ possession, breaking the double-digit lead for the first time since the opening quarter.
After a North Decatur basket, the Royals had a chance to cut the lead to six after Muegge would hit 1 of 2 shots at the free throw line and a Charger turnover. However, North Decatur would capitalize with another basket before both teams went cold for the final two minutes of the quarter.
“It could have cut it to six and made the game interesting,” Spaulding said.
North Decatur escaped the rally and scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to seize momentum — again — and the win.
Speas, who received an award at halftime for his accomplishments in the classroom, finished with eight points.
“They asked us for an honoree and Ryan is an outstanding student,” Spaulding said. “He hardly gets a B if he even does.”
Overall, the Royals shot 4-for-28 from behind the 3-point line. The Chargers were 21 of 50 from the field and 5-for-13 from deep.
True also led the team with seven rebounds while Barton added five.
Despite the loss, Eastern Hancock finished 1-2 over the weekend after a 71-55 win at Muncie Burris and has won two of its last four games after dropping four in a row early in the season.
“It was a good weekend for us and North Decatur is a very good team,” Spaulding said. “Muncie Burris is a good team but not the same caliber.”
The Royals return to action on Friday at home against Waldron, which recently won the Shelby County Tournament.
Eastern Hancock 44, North Decatur 57
EHHS (3-6, 0-3 MHC);10;3;14;17;—;44
NDHS (7-4, 5-0 MHC);20;10;8;19;—;57
EASTERN HANCOCK — True 3 7-8 14, Muegge 3 3-4 9, Cherry 0 0-0 0 , Barton 4 0-0 9, Speas 3 0-0 8, Lewis 0 0-0 0, Blattner 0 1-2 1, Eischen 1 0-0 2, Stillinger 0 1-2 1. Totals: 14 12-17 44.
NORTH DECATUR — Merritt 8 2-3 21, Holloway 0 0-0 0, Wallpe 4 2-6 10, Hocker 3 0-0 8, Lecher 5 2-2 12, Badgley 2 0-0 2, Crites 0 3-4 3, Bowling 0 1-2 1, Totals: 22 10-17 57.