For the Daily Reporter
HOPE — Eastern Hancock made 14 3-pointers Thursday night, but it needed the 15th to go down to pull out an improbable victory.
A.J. Muegge’s 22-footer as time expired bounced off the back of the rim, allowing Hauser to hang on for a 72-70 Mid-Hoosier Conference victory on senior night.
The Jets (13-7, 5-3) made enough free throws down the stretch to keep the lead. They were 15 for 17 from the line in the fourth quarter and 22 for 26 for the game.
Hauser’s Zach Johnson, who made six consecutive free throws in the final 1:22, led all scorers with 24 points. Zach Gearhart finished with 17 points, while Quindon Shipley added 12.
Addison True scored 20 points to lead four Royals in double figures. Tom Barton added 16, while Muegge finished with 14 and Ryan Speas had 12.
The first half featured eight lead changes and ended with a 32-31 Jets lead. Hauser then began the third quarter with an 11-2 run to take its biggest lead at 43-33.
Eastern Hancock (5-13, 0-6) closed to within 49-47 on a 3-pointer by Muegge to open the fourth quarter. The Jets opened the lead back to 61-52 with 3 minutes remaining, but the Royals weren’t done.
True’s 3-pointer with 1:26 remaining cut the lead to 63-60. Johnson hit four straight free throws to push the lead back to seven with 52 seconds left, but two free throws by Muegge and a steal and layup by True made it 67-64 with 38 seconds remaining.
Hauser got two more free throws from Johnson, but a 3-pointer by Speas cut it to 69-67 with 22 seconds left. Gearhart then hit a pair from the line to make it a four-point game before Barton hit a 3 with 13 seconds left to cut it to 71-70.
Gearhart then made the first of two free throws with 6.2 seconds remaining. He missed the second, and Eastern Hancock rebounded, but Muegge’s potential game-winner was off the mark.
Johnson and Gearhart each grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Jets to a 30-22 advantage on the boards. True and Tyler Blattner each had nine rebounds for the Royals.