CHARLOTTESVILLE — Nothing would fall. After a strong first half and a 23-17 lead at halftime against rival Knightstown, the Eastern Hancock Royals needed a minute in the fourth quarter — to breathe.
A timeout with 5:14 left in regulation on Friday night did the trick as the host Royals stormed back from a 38-30 deficit in front of a capacity crowd to win 47-43 in overtime.
“Things just weren’t clicking for us. We weren’t shooting the ball well, and I give credit to Knightstown. They did a nice job defensively,” Spaulding said. “But it was gut check time. We had to find a way to win, and they did.”
The topic of conversation during the late tide-turning timeout was patience, Eastern Hancock senior guard Addison True said. And he took the approach to heart, icing his rivals with 11 crucial points down the stretch and into overtime.
True finished with a team-high 15 points. A.J. Muegge had eight points along with Jacob Eischen.
Senior guard Brycen Napier had nine points off three 3-pointers, including a halftime buzzer-beating corner fade-away trey off an inbound pass from Duncan Cherry that ignited the home fans.
“It’s always a good game,” True said. “It was a good atmosphere.”
The third quarter proved unkind, however, as the Panthers (2-5) took over with an 11-2 run in the third quarter to go up 28-25.
They continued to charge back with a 10-2 run to build a 38-30 lead in the fourth.
“I try to tell them all the time, and it’s been that case for the past two years, just throw the records in the trash,” Spaulding remarked. “I think we understood that. They obviously gave us everything tonight.”
The unbeaten Royals (6-0), who are off to their best start since the 1989-90 season, made their move after breaking from their timeout, beginning with a bucket by Muegge.
He followed up with another to cut the margin to 38-34 with 3:51 left in regulation. From there, True laid down the truth.
The sharpshooter knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, giving the Royals a brief 40-38 lead with 2:28 remaining.
“It’s always big when I do that, especially against Knightstown,” True said.
Jarred Porter answered by going 2-for-2 from the foul line with 2:02 left to tie the game. Porter supplied Knightstown with 12 points along with Garrett Thomas’ 12. Jose Olivo led the team with 13.
Neither team could converted on two failed last-possession attempts, which forced the 4-minute bonus period.
“Addison hit a couple of big shots to get us moving over the hump and got it to overtime,” Spaulding said. “We had to be better than them in four minutes. Fortunately, we were able to get that done.”
True converted 1 of 2 foul shots after Thomas put Knightstown up 41-40 in overtime. Then, True came through with a key steal and a transition layup.
A pair of foul shots by True and lock down defense by the Royals foreshadowed the inevitable. Eischen scored the Royals final two points on a pair of free throws, while securing a key defensive rebound.
“We had to slow it down. We were going to hit shots eventually. They were going to fall,” True said. “We picked up the pace on the pass and that made them flutter a little, so that kind of helped us there. We definitely didn’t want to lose this one. It’s a rival school and we wanted it.”