CHARLOTTESVILLE — On Friday night, the Eastern Hancock Royals took the floor with an addition to their jerseys: an embroidered rose.
The rose was in memory of Lisa Muegge, the mother of Royals’ senior AJ Muegge, who passed away Thursday.
Despite a valiant, emotional and physically exhausting effort, the Royals eventually lost to the Irvington Prep Academy Ravens 55-51.
“We didn’t even know if we would play tonight,” Royals coach Aaron Spaulding said afterwards. “But we left it up to the guys, and AJ wanted to play. So, we played.”
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In impressive fashion, Muegge hit his first three shot attempts of the night: all 3-pointers, nothing but net.
Muegge’s third of the night would push the Eastern Hancock lead to 12-0 early as the Royals banded around their teammate and his family.
However, the realities of Irvington’s speed and aggressiveness would soon catch up with the Royals, as they went into halftime down 25-20.
“We made some jump shots at the beginning of the game, and I think that led to us settling for jump shots too much,” Spaulding stated.
Once the third quarter began, the Royals made an effort to attack the basket and stayed in the game that way.
However, the Irvington duo of senior guard Jonathan Cousin and sophomore forward Myles Johnson were able to push Irvington’s lead to 12 points with four minutes remaining.
Both would finish with 21 points on the night.
A spirited comeback aided by missed Irvington free throws fell short when the Royals could not get a shot to fall in their final two possessions, leading to a 55-51 loss.
“I could tell throughout the game our guys were emotionally spent,” Spaulding said. “They fought their heart out all night long. I told them I love them and was proud of them. … It was a lot bigger than a basketball game tonight.”