KNIGHTSTOWN — Eastern Hancock’s seniors met near the top of the 3-point line. Locking arms for an emotional hug while slightly losing their balance, Kaysi Gilbert, Peyton West and Emiley Carlton had plenty of reason to celebrate.
Controlling the pace from start to finish, Eastern Hancock used a collective effort to knock off top-ranked Triton Central on Saturday for the Class 2A Sectional 42 title. Eight Royals scored at least two points in the 57-50 win, led by Carlton’s 16.
West grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, while Gilbert added eight points in the senior classes’ first win against the Tigers in four attempts — dating back to last season.
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Last year, Triton Central (23-2) edged Eastern Hancock (14-10) by two points for the sectional crown. Earlier this season, the Tigers topped the Royals in a decisive 52-35 win.
Saturday’s contest, however, was a completely different story. The Royals led after each quarter and held a 10-point advantage heading into the final period.
“We came out with the mindset that we didn’t care who (Triton Central) was,” said West, who made a key jumper in the fourth quarter. “Losing to them last year really hurt us. But tonight, we came out like no one was going to beat us.
“The No. 1 thing we wrote on the (pregame) board was tempo. We wanted to come out ready to play.”
For the game, Eastern Hancock finished 24 of 51 (47 percent) from the field, while Triton Central was 18-for-45 (40 percent). The Tigers committed 19 turnovers, though, and missed 10 shots at the foul line.
Sophomore Haley Best added 11 points for the Royals, including three 3-pointers, while junior Bailey Allen finished with 12 points. Sophomore Jenna Smith collected seven rebounds and three blocks down low.
Eastern Hancock, which led Triton Central 29-25 at halftime, last won a sectional title during the 2000-01 season. The Royals also topped the Tigers in that win under head coach Pete Hubert before losing to Shenandoah by eight in the first round of regional play.
“(Triton Central) plays so well that every mistake you make turns on you,” Royals head coach Andy Meneely said after the game. “We were able to get the ball into some situations there were beneficial to us, and we hit some shots.”
“We didn’t give up too many uncontested rebounds and played with a ton of energy.”
Five players scored in a pivotal third quarter for the Royals, led by eight from Best and six from Gilbert. Bests’ third make from deep would finish a 13-6 run three minutes into the period as Eastern Hancock held a 42-31 advantage — its largest lead of the game up to that point.
The biggest deficit Triton Central faced came in the fourth quarter after West found room on the left baseline for a two-point jump shot, which gave the Royals a 56-43 lead with 5:10 left in the game.
Eastern Hancock needed just five points in the fourth quarter to seal the win after holding the Tigers, who were on a 15-game win streak, to 2 of 9 shooting from the field.
“In the third quarter, we could tell they were playing nervous,” Carlton said. “I think that really helped us push through. We knew this team was in shape, could run fast and could play good defense.
“We have been talking about this all year. We couldn’t let this night be our last.”
The Tigers were led by Maya Chandler, who finished with 19 points. Courtney Raymer added 17.
The Royals now move on to play South Putnam (15-10) in the Speedway Regional at noon Saturday. In the first semifinal that afternoon, Winchester Community (20-5) plays Covenant Christian (14-9).