CHARLOTTESVILLE — The emotions welled up inside quickly and began to overcome Emiley Carlton as the clock stood frozen with 2.9 seconds remaining on Thursday night.
As the third Eastern Hancock girls basketball player in program history to surpass 1,000 career points, numbers 1,013 and 1,014 proved the most difficult as the Royals clung to a 69-63 lead against Tri on senior night.
“I knew those two free throws would be my last shots on this court ever. I was walking up to the line with tears in my eyes,” Carlton admitted afterwards. “I was like, ‘if I miss these shots, I’m going to hate myself forever.'”
She had nothing to loath by game’s end as she buried both 15-footers with ease, sealing a 71-63 win for the Royals’ fourth in six games to highlight the team’s regular-season finale.
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Carlton finished with a team-high 14 points, converting 9 of 10 free throws, while the Royals three active seniors combined for 35 points under the spotlight.
Senior Kaysi Gilbert had nine points and seven rebounds. Senior Peyton West had 12 points and six rebounds while Carlton added nine rebounds.
“As a group we played really well. During the season, we had our spots where were weren’t playing as a team, but tonight I felt the whole team came together finally, and played to its potential,” Gilbert said. “That was a good team, and we played hard against them, which is why I think we pulled out the W.”
Tri High (15-6) entered with a seven-game winning streak, not losing since Dec. 30 against Class 2A Sheridan. The Royals halted the Class A Titans leading from start to finish to improve to 6-1 against Class A opponents.
The key to victory stemmed from collective efficiency, Royals head coach Andy Meneely said, and it was evident as four players scored in double figures, including sophomore Haley Best with 10 points and junior Bailey Allen with 12.
“The scoring was all around. We weren’t selfish with the ball,” Gilbert said.
They picked each other up, as well, especially with Carlton sidelined for a majority of the night in foul trouble. Called for two fouls in the first quarter, Carlton sat for most of the second.
Best, West and the rest carried the torch, however, as five different players scored to keep the Royals up 36-31 by halftime.
“We got in foul trouble early, but we were able to hold onto the lead, and everyone was involved,” Meneely said. “Peyton West was doing a great job for us finishing, Kaysi did a great job for us on defense and Carlton did what she does. She made plays. That opens up the floor for everybody.”
The third quarter belonged to Allen and Carlton with the former putting up eight points and the elder scoring five. Their production helped offset Tri’s Payton Moore, a junior, who had a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds.
Moore is averaging 16.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.
Karlee Winkhart and Addy Edwards teamed with Moore to push the Royals in the second half. Winkhart had 13 points while Edwards chipped in 13 points and six rebounds. Kayle Appleby added 10 points.
The Royals never let the Titans get closer than four points down the stretch.
Carlton, Gilbert and West dedicated the win to senior Morgan Collins and Leah Ferguson, both who are out the remainder of the season.
“I’m happy I’ve had this chance to spend this time with these seniors, and to be able to finish with two of them on the court with me, that’s so great,” Gilbert said. “The girls that couldn’t play, I know they’ve done so much for me. They’ve always had my back, so I felt like I needed to have theirs.”