GREENFIELD — Eastern Hancock was pesky Saturday night at Greenfield-Central. Sometimes, though, being a nuisance just doesn’t cut it.
Despite a career night from sophomore Tyler Blattner and 11 3-point field goals, the Royals could not overcome an obvious size disadvantage inside and were edged by a more experienced Cougars squad, 55-53.
Greenfield-Central senior forward Tate Hall, who stands 6-foot-6, scored 27 points, 14 of which came at the free-throw line as the Cougars held off a furious fourth-quarter rally to earn their fourth-straight win.
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“A lot of credit goes to their (Eastern Hancock’s) kids,” Greenfield-Central head coach Michael Lewis said. “I thought they fought very hard and shot the ball extremely well. They really made it a dog fight.”
Blattner, whose previous career-high was seven points, torched the Cougars’ defense for 18 points Saturday — eight coming in the fourth quarter. Classmates Addison True and A.J. Muegge scored 12 and 11 points, respectively.
“We played hard, and they are a very good team,” Eastern Hancock head coach Aaron Spaulding said. “We knew we were going to need a great effort just to give ourselves a chance. I thought our kids did that, and we just hung around, kept hanging on and made it interesting at the end.
“Tyler had an outstanding game, and that’s what we need — that next guy up.”
With 2:23 remaining in the fourth quarter, Greenfield-Central (13-4) took its largest lead of the game, 46-35, after a free throw from senior guard Blake Robertson, who finished with 12 points.
Then, like they did the entire game, the Royals (4-11) fought back, outscoring the Cougars 18-9 the rest of the game.
After threes from Blattner and senior guard Ryan Speas and free throws from Muegge, Eastern Hancock trailed by just five, 48-43, with 1:30 left in the game.
Another Blattner 3-pointer made it 52-48 with 41 seconds left on the clock, but Greenfield-Central would use free throws from Hall and senior guard Chandler Bean to finish off the comeback.
Muegge would drill his third 3-pointer of the game with seven seconds left in the contest, but the Cougars were able to hold the ball out of bounds as the clock eventually ran out.
As a team, Greenfield-Central finished 19 of 24 at the charity stripe, including an 11-for-15 effort in the pivotal final frame. Hall missed just one shot at the foul line Saturday night.
“Tate stepped up and made some huge free throws,” Lewis said. “We were happy about that and for the most part we took care of the ball at the end of the game.”
True, who entered Saturday’s game as the team’s leading scorer while shooting 41 percent from the field (15.8 points per game), was held to a 4-of-15 effort against the Cougars.
“I thought we did a good job of not letting him have clean looks,” Lewis said. “We at least wanted them (his shots) to be contested. We did a good job of that, but they had some kids step up.”
Speas, one of only three seniors on Eastern Hancock’s roster, finished with 10 points in the loss. Spaulding said this type of game will be something his young team, which features seven sophomores, can build from.
“In 2001, we had a sophomore laden group and they started the year 4-12,” Spaulding said. “Same type of thing, we’re in games and we’re young. Two years later that team made it to the semistate. This experience is invaluable.”
For the game, the Royals shot 43 percent (17 of 40) from the field, including 58 percent from behind the arc. The Cougars finished at 47 percent from the field (16 of 34).
Greenfield-Central made multiple efforts to pull away at various points in the game but held single digit leads at the end of each quarter.
The Royals played without sophomore starter Duncan Cherry, who suffered a sprained ankle in a game last weekend. He is averaging 8.3 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game this season.
The Cougars return to action Thursday against Hoosier Heritage Conference foe Delta. Eastern Hancock plays Thursday, as well, at Tri.
In the junior varsity game, Greenfield-Central won 52-44.