CHARLOTTESVILLE — The memories washed over Aaron Spaulding in waves Tuesday night.
After the final horn sounded, each moment — past and present — drenched the 18-year coaching veteran’s mind: the countless players, his loyal coaches, the elation, and the heartbreaks.
As his Eastern Hancock boys basketball team pushed past Blue River Valley 60-57 to secure their coach’s 200th career win, Spaulding’s thoughts overflowed.
“It means I’ve done this a long time,” Spaulding laughed afterwards. “With 200, you remember a lot of kids that contributed to that. The coaching staff that has been together (Brett Bechtel and Tim Retherford) for all but the first year I’ve been here.
“The people are really what matter the most with something like this.”
Despite trying to downplay his career milestone, his players showed their appreciation in traditional style. The Royals ambushed Spaulding in the locker room with a celebratory water-bottle shower.
“I was kind of mad about that,” Spaulding said with a smile after his team improved to 12-7 on the year. “I’m soaked.”
“This was very important to us,” Eastern Hancock junior Addison True added on helping Spaulding reach the bicentennial mark. “We gave him a little celebration once he got in (the locker room) because he deserves it.”
Blue River Valley didn’t necessarily agree as they pushed the Royals from start to finish in a back-and-forth game that came down to the last minute.
The Vikings (8-12), who will be an Mid-Eastern Conference foe in 2017-18, refused to let the Royals runaway, putting together two 10-runs to erase nearly every Eastern Hancock lead.
The Royals opened with a 16-3 run to go up 16-5 in the first first, but the Vikings responded early in the second, slicing their deficit to 16-15 with 5:51 left before halftime.
“We just didn’t do a very good job of putting them away tonight,” Spaulding said. “We didn’t execute as well as I would have liked, so we have to get better at that.”
True led the Royals with 21 points and shot 7 of 9 from the free-throw line, including 6 of 7 in the fourth quarter to keep the Vikings at bay.
“It seemed like every time we got something going, they came right back,” True said. “Towards the end of games this year, we’ve struggled with that, and I think we’re getting better. Earlier in the year, we would have lost that game, but we’re getting better.”
The Royals pulled ahead by 12 points in the third quarter off one of True’s two 3-pointers and led by 13 points with 1:58 remaining in the frame after a Peyton Gray bucket.
However, just as the Vikings did at the end of the first half, they once again clawed back behind Cole Cross’s team-high 17 points. Luke Cross added 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Blue River tied the game at twice in the first half, but could only pull within three points in the second half.
“Good win tonight, it makes us 9-1 at home,” said Spaulding. “If we can win against Morristown (on Friday), we can finish with just Howe beating us here. We want to defend our home court. Hopefully, we can finish that strong on Friday night.”