CHARLOTTESVILLE — After dropping their season opener last weekend, the Eastern Hancock Royals came out with a purpose Friday night.
Royals’ junior guard Haley Best scored a game-high 18 points and Class 2A Eastern Hancock shot a blistering 55 percent from the field in the first half to build a quick double-digit lead.
Junior forward Jenna Smith added 12 points by game’s end for the Royals (1-1), who never trailed against visiting Centerville (0-1), en route to a 64-36 victory.
“It’s nice to open up in front of your home crowd with a win,” Eastern Hancock head coach Shari Doud said. “We lost a tough one at Hagerstown, so the kids were really excited about playing again. They showed they were eager to get a win.”
Best shot 6 of 10 from the floor, including 4-for-8 from 3-point range, to put the game out of reach early during the Royals’ home opener.
The Royals came out on fire, putting together a 10-0 run after the opening tip. An 11-0 run in the second quarter put them in control as they established a 21-point lead.
The margin eventually swelled to game-high 33 points late in the third quarter.
“It’s good coming out in our first home game and getting the win and proving the point that we are capable of winning a lot of games,” Best said. “I believe if we come out and hit a lot of shots, we can win. We don’t need to rush. That’s the big thing, don’t rush.”
The Royals’ patience was key as they spread the ball around with Best filling in at point guard for sophomore guard Lexi Lewman, who was out.
Jocelyn Duncan, a sophomore guard, led the bench scoring for Eastern Hancock with 11 points. She was 3-for-3 from the field in the first half and buried 3 of 5 jumpers from beyond the arc as a reserve.
Chloe O’Neal, a freshman starter, hit a long jumper with 1:33 left before the fourth quarter to supply the Royals with their largest lead.
“This was a nice one where a lot of kids got to contribute,” Doud said. “Some girls got some floor experience, which will help the rest of the season.”
Smith, key returnee this season for the Royals, took charge during Eastern Hancock’s 23-point third quarter. The 5-foot-9 forward scored 10 points in the frame, shooting 4-for-4 from the floor, mixing in post moves and short jumpers.
“Jenna is a savvy inside players. She’s got a nice touch around the basket and has a good feel for where the ball is going to be around the glass,” Doud said. “She’s really made herself more versatile this year. She’s good from around 15 feet and in this year.”
The Royals converted 9 of 19 3-pointers in the game and worked the boards to tally 32 rebounds compared to Centerville’s 26. Smith crashed inside to grab a team-best six boards.
Centerville was led by junior Cassidy Doolin with 14 points. Doolin was 8 of 12 from the free-throw line, but the Bulldogs shot 33 percent from the field.
Eastern Hancock shot 46 percent for the game. The Royals continue their back-to-back weekend schedule at Triton Central tonight in a rematch of last year’s sectional championship.
The Royals knocked off Triton Central, who was ranked No. 1 in Class 2A last postseason, 57-50.
“The next one is going to be tough,” Best remarked on the Royals’ upcoming test. “It’s a big game. We have to be prepared. We have to be ready for anything.”