For The Daily Reporter
CHARLOTTESVILLE — For the past five years Eastern Hancock and Hagerstown have put on some pretty good shows at the end the regular season.
Friday night’s contest didn’t disappoint despite the Tigers (15-8) gaining a big advantage after a 9-0 run to start the second quarter.
The Royals’ aggressive defense and hustle kept them in the ballgame, but their late rally came up short as they fell 64-53.
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Their vigorous effort has been an expectation for Royals’ coach Aaron Spaulding, who praised his team’s late-game endeavor even though the scoreboard wasn’t in the Royals’ favor.
“It’s a motto of ours that we expect them to fight to the buzzer regardless of the score,” Spaulding emphasized. “I thought the kids played hard until the end, but unfortunately what we didn’t do was have really good middle quarters.”
The 9-0 run by the Tigers to open the second quarter just scratched the surface the Royals’ (7-15) woes. Poor passing, resulting in careless turnovers, coupled with two offensive fouls really hurt any positive momentum the Royals were trying to salvage.
“Second quarter we didn’t take care of the ball very well, third quarter we didn’t rebound it well and that’s what we’ve got to do to beat a good team like Hagerstown,” Spaulding said.
Hagerstown outrebounded the Royals 19-15 for the game but two rebounds early in the third quarter really stifled Eastern Hancock. Both resulted in quick kick outs to Tigers’ leading scorer, Jared Andis, who quickly rifled the ball up for two of his nine 3-pointers.
Andis wreaked havoc against the Royals’ zone defense, and it was only once they switched to man-to-man that he began to cool down. Andis finished with 35 points, 27 coming from behind the arc.
“He can do some other things but he just shot the ball well tonight,” Spaulding said of Andis. “First half we didn’t get out to him real well and in the second half we just had to rebound the ball better.”
Offensively, the Royals were led by Duncan Cherry who had 16 points and five boards. A.J. Muegge and Tom Barton each chipped in 12 apiece with Muegge also adding five assists, four came in the first quarter alone.
Shots fell easy for the Royals early on, but the Tigers kept them quiet late with their tough, on-the-ball defense.
Though Hagerstown outplayed the Royals, Spaulding mentioned that this was good practice game for what’s in store at sectional next week.
“They guarded well the whole game, and not to take anything away from them, but we’ve just got to take care of the ball better,” Spaulding remarked. “We play Howe on Tuesday and this was the best practice game we could’ve had for them.”
The Royals begin their postseason run Tuesday against Indianapolis Howe. The Royals fell to the Hornets (17-7) earlier in the season 87-53. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Shenandoah High School.