KNIGHTSTOWN — The adage goes: in rivalry games, you can toss the records out of the window. In the latest chapter of the Eastern Hancock and Knightstown rivalry on Friday night, the game certainly lived up to those words.
The Royals were pushed but hung on for a 56-51 victory against a winless Knightstown team, which came out aggressively looking to steal a win.
The victory improved Eastern Hancock’s record to 3-3 on the season, snapped a three-game losing streak to Knightstown and gave the Royals a 23-19 series lead in the last 31 years.
“We’ve had a lot of battles over the years with these guys,” Royals coach Aaron Spaulding said after the win. “There’s a lot of nerves and a lot of these kids know each other.”
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The Royals took a 12-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Spaulding wasn’t happy simply having the lead. The Royals started the game attempting a 3-point shot on four of their first five possessions, missing each attempt.
“The ball was sticking at the beginning of the game and even into halftime,” said Spaulding. “We have got to make sure to keep the ball moving and popping if we’re going to be effective.”
After the cold start from deep, the Royals got dialed in and made nine total threes for the game. Duncan Cherry and Addison True made three each. Cherry finished with nine points, and True had 14 points and nine rebounds.
The second and fourth quarters were when the Panthers made their runs.
In the second, senior forward Tucker Personett got hot and scored seven points in the first two minutes. Eventually, Knightstown would take a 19-18 lead in the quarter, but that would be its last lead of the game.
“I really liked how we came out and played in the third quarter,” Spaulding stated. “We focused, again, on moving the ball and you saw that we got the lead back up to 11 within about three minutes.”
Despite the 11-point lead, Knightstown never went away. Personett continued to drain mid-range jumpers, and Dylan Hiner and Daniel Rayburn attacked the basket to draw the Panthers within one point with 3:17 remaining.
They weren’t able to take the lead however, as junior center Jacob Eischen pulled down numerous rebounds and big shots at the rim to keep the Royals safely ahead.
His biggest play of the game may have been a tip rebound out to True, which allowed the Royals to keep possession and the lead with just 20 seconds remaining. Eischen finished with seven points and six rebounds.
Junior guard Brycen Napier lead the Royals with 15 points.
“Eischen struggled in the first half and we decided to go small in the third quarter,” Spaulding said. “But he stuck with it and made some really nice plays for us.”
The Royals are back on the court tonight at 7:30 p.m. as they host the 5-1 Cambridge City Lincoln Eagles on Military Appreciation Night.