CHARLOTESVILLE — The Eastern Hancock girls’ basketball team won’t soon forget Saturday night.
Locked in a defensive struggle with Triton Central as both Class 2A teams fell below 30-percent shooting, the Royals (17-8) just couldn’t find enough offense and had their season cut short in the Sectional 42 finals with a 36-34 loss.
The Royals did have a chance to win the game in the final seconds. With less than four ticks on the clock the Royals were able to inbound the ball and worked the ball up to senior Hope Spaulding.
Spaulding attempted a 3-pointer as time expired to win the game and drew some contact, but the shot fell short.
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“Hope has played a big-player role for us all season,” Eastern Hancock coach Shari Doud said of Spaulding. “When she steps away for graduation she’s going to take a lot of the heart of this team with her and when she’s on the court, she’s a warrior.”
Despite the final score, Doud was proud of her team’s effort.
“We shot 28 percent and it was almost enough to get a win.” Doud said. “I’ve never been more proud of my group this season and for 32 minutes they played with so much heart. They’re still my winners.”
Neither team was able to get off very many open looks. The Royals dealt with constant pressure every possession and each shot attempt was met with either a hand in the face or more often a hand check across the arm.
Points in the paint were especially hard to come by as the game wore on.
Emiley Carlton was fed early and often and connected on four of her first five attempts. That, however, didn’t last long as the Tigers (15-10) began to double team everything in the post.
“They’re very well-schooled defensively,” Doud said of Triton Central. “In-the-paint shots are all challenged, so you have to rely on hitting perimeter jumpers, which is obviously a lower-percentage shot.”
Carlton finished with 17 points, half of the team’s total offense, to lead all scorers. She also pulled down eight big rebounds and came up with four steals.
“She was great for us from the tip and she came to play four quarters of basketball tonight more so than I’ve ever seen her before,” Doud stated. “She wanted to put the team on her back and for the most part she did that.”