CHARLOTTESVILLE — For a Class 2A program, Cambridge City Lincoln certainly passes the eye test.
Featuring two starters listed at 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-8, Eastern Hancock may not see another team all season with as much sheer size as the Golden Eagles.
That size and length didn’t seem to bother the Royals on Friday, though, as they found ways to maneuver around it. With the score tied at 58-all with 17 second left in the game, junior guard Brycen Napier calmly knocked down two foul shots to give Eastern Hancock a 60-58 win.
Junior guard Addison True also knocked down decisive free throws in the closing minutes and finished with a team-high 20 points in the victory. Napier added 15.
Senior Hunter Ferris, the smaller of the twin towers for Cambridge City Lincoln, spent a majority of his time on the wing and finished with a game-high 23 points, while junior Garrett Pumphrey, a more traditional post player, finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
At 6-foot-2, Royals (5-4) junior center Jacob Eischen appeared to be at a disadvantage. However, he held his own and forced Pumphrey out of position multiple times, including a solid effort late in the fourth quarter.
A Golden Eagles guard forced an entry pass, which was stolen by True, thanks in large to the defensive pressure in the post by Eischen. After halftime, Pumphrey scored just six points.
“We wanted to root them out of the paint,” Eischen said, who grabbed four rebounds in the win. “I knew, since he was bigger than me, he was obviously going to score points. I knew I had to get him out and coach (Aaron Spaulding) wanted another player to double with me.”
The strategy worked, especially late in the second half. The Golden Eagles (6-2) committed nine turnovers in the third and fourth quarters to finish with 15 in the game.
Junior forward Duncan Cherry had eight rebounds midway through the third quarter and finished with 10 in the game for Eastern Hancock. He added 12 points for a double-double, while junior guard A.J. Muegge finished with nine in another balanced scoring attack for the home team, which outrebounded a much larger squad 32-28.
In the first quarter, Eastern Hancock shared the ball well and saw six players score, led by Napier’s four points. Ferris was hot early, though, and drilled three opening-quarter threes to give the visitors a 18-15 lead.
Pumphrey found rhythm towards the end of period and scored six straight points on the way to a 12-point first half.
True led the Royals with seven points at the break, including five points in the second quarter as Eastern Hancock trailed 26-25 in a slower second frame.
Leading by four heading into the third quarter, Eastern Hancock saw its lead disappear with just over five minutes to play. The Golden Eagles got up by as much as six, 54-48, after a dunk from Pumphrey, but toughness and clutch free throw shooting was enough to grind out a victory at home.
The Royals, who scored 11 more points at the charity stripe than the visitors, finished the first half 11 of 23 from the field with just four turnovers, while the Golden Eagles were 11-for-27.
For the game, Eastern Hancock finished 21 of 51 from the field. Cambridge City Lincoln was 24-for-49.
True, who leads the team in rebounding, nearly secured a double-double with Cherry and added eight rebounds.
“(Opposing teams) can’t just guard one guy,” Eischen said. “We have multiple guys who can get 10 points (or more).”
Eastern Hancock will play again on Jan. 6 at home against Muncie Burris.