FRANKTON — The Eastern Hancock Royals had an answer for nearly every Frankton Eagles run on Tuesday night, but there was no solution to the Sydney Tucker factor.
Shooting 11 of 21 from the field for a game-high 37 points, the 5-foot-8 Frankton junior hit clutch shots from every distance and scored her team’s final 10 points to secure the Eagles’ eighth straight win against the Royals 66-61.
“She hit big shots whenever she wanted to. Kids like that, you try to slow them down, but she had a great game,” Eastern Hancock head coach Andy Meneely said. “They announced she had 1,000 points at the end of the game, so my goodness. She’s a little good.”
Honored at the conclusion of the game, Tucker, an Evansville commit, joined the school’s 1,000-point club to give the Class 2A Eagles (10-5) seven wins in their past nine and momentum leading into the Madison County Tournament next week.
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The Royals (8-6) dropped their third consecutive but showed their grit, rallying back from an 18-9 deficit after the first quarter and clawing their way to 11 ties behind double-digit night’s from Haley Best and Emiley Carlton, who both had 14 points.
“I told them, it’s going to be a game of runs. They are a good shooting team, so they were going to get on streaks, but don’t worry about it,” Meneely said. “We’ll have our run. They threw two good punches at us, but we came right back.”
Taking the Eagles’ first shot early in the first half, the Class 2A Royals battled back and deadlocked the game 20-all in the second quarter with an 11-2 run.
Down 29-22, Eastern Hancock finished the half on a 7-0 run, which Best capped with a running back shot and 41 seconds remaining before halftime.
“Even though I felt our effort was good they seemed to be in the right place,” Frankton head coach Stephan Hamaker said. “It still worked out but sometimes those 50-50 balls turn into 75-25 balls. We got our fair share but early on they were going in Eastern Hancock’s favor.”
Collecting 40 percent on the offensive boards, the Royals scored 20 points in the second quarter and grabbed their first lead of the night in the third. The Royals went up 43-42 off a perfect one-time pass from Peyton West to Jenna Smith in the lane before Tucker responded.
The guard scored off a steal and a layup, which freshman Addie Gardner followed up with one of her three 3-pointers to give Frankton a 47-42 lead before the fourth quarter.
Gardner had 10 points and Ryann Shively added eight points.
Smith chipped in eight points and nine rebounds for the Royals while Liberty Dunham had eight points.
Frankton’s lead vanished with a pair of ties in the fourth, and the Royals went up 55-52 off another Best trey and 57-56 with a pair of free throws from Carlton.
Tucker, however, ended the threat, going 8 of 10 from the free-throw line and burying a shot in transition to foul out Carlton with 2:08 left in the game.
“I think, especially after last game, we’re still trying to get back to where we should be,” Carlton said. “That’s a lot of what’s going on right now.”
The Royals lost to Cambridge City Lincoln 53-52 on Dec. 20 and to Class A Blue River Valley 68-57 on Thursday. Hampered by illnesses and injuries to three of the starters this season, the Royals are still gelling as a unit with only two games in with all five on the floor together.
Their next test is against Class 2A Lapel (9-2) this Thursday.
“I think we’re learning about about each other through these games,” Carlton said. “If you go out and smoke a team, you’re really not learning anything about yourself or your teammates. Close games like this, true character comes out. You learn to work through your frustrations as a team. We are getting better.”