Royals win big in opening round

CHARLOTTESVILLE — While it would have been easy to get caught up in all the good feelings of an 81-8 first-round win against Irvington Prep in Sectional 42, Eastern Hancock girls basketball coach Shari Doud found plenty of things to remind her team about.

“This time of the year, it is a defensive battle. We have to execute, be more diligent with the ball, score quickly, make good decisions and keep the turnovers down,” said Doud, who watched her Class 2A team improve to 16-7 on the season after coming into the tournament losing three of their last four.

It could be argued that the only negative Tuesday night for the Royals was a slow start, as it took three minutes before Eastern Hancock cracked the scoreboard.

And, then it was game over as Eastern Hancock quickly turned a 6-0 advantage into a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.

“For this week, it is always nice to come out and set the tone early, and we were able to do that,” Doud said.

Eastern Hancock kept rolling in the second quarter, opening on a 6-0 run en route to a 35-4 halftime advantage.

“Sometimes, young teenagers can struggle to keep their focus when they are blowing out an opponent, but we remind them that each quarter is 0-0 and that they have to play,” Doud said.

The halftime break did little to slow down the Royals, who watched the lead swell to 50-4 after Haley Best drilled a 3-pointer.

“I was happy to see us, collectively, shoot the ball well. We have had some games where we have struggled to hit wide-open shots, but tonight, we shot well,” Doud said. “It was nice to get that confidence going. I think we still need to do a better job stopping dribble penetration. We will have to continue to emphasis that in practice.”

Eastern Hancock, who forced Irvington into 53 turnovers, will return to the floor on Friday when it takes on Shenandoah, who received a bye into the semifinals.

Earlier this season, the Royals defeated Shenandoah 48-29, but Doud said that game is history.

“That was a while ago, and Shenandoah is a much better team now than when we played them the first time,” she said. “We have two days to get ready for them, and we have to come out ready. The motivation will be there.”

The Raiders will come into the contest with a 6-15 mark and losers of three straight.

“We still have to come ready to play. It comes down to our defense,” Doud said.

The other semifinal features Triton Central, who defeated Knightstown on Tuesday, against Howe.

Eastern Hancock was led by Best, who hit six 3-pointers on her way to 21 points. Jenna Smith and Peyton West each added 10 in the win.