CHARLOTTESVILLE — After a 20-point opening-quarter eruption, there was little doubt on Friday night.
In search of their eighth win after having their four-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday, the host Eastern Hancock Royals rolled to a 63-36 victory at home against rival Knightstown.
But the final numbers did little to satisfy Royals head coach Shari Doud, who saw plenty of miscues, turnovers and lackadaisical play in the final 16 minutes to make the final bittersweet.
“Their adrenaline in the first half was great. The kids played hard and Aly Spaulding was phenomenal getting to the rack and the free-throw line. Defensively, Knightstown struggled with our pressure,” Doud said. “Then halftime occurred and the tale of two halves happened.”
The Royals finished the first up by 19 points and the lead ballooned to 23 points in the fourth quarter, but their effectiveness waned, especially on defense.
The Knightstown Panthers (3-10) posted 23 second-half points, going 14 of 21 from the free-throw line.
“We got complacent and it’s a habit that we’ve had of rising and falling to occasions. We need to get 32 minutes of competitive play regardless of the style of the game or the score,” Doud said. “We have to get more consistency for 32 minutes.”
The Royals’ (8-5) rhythm reemerged in the fourth quarter with another 17 points tacked on the scoreboard, but Doud believes it could have been sharper.
Spaulding had a game-high 19 points, shooting 7 of 7 from the foul line for the Royals. Haley Best had 10 points and Jenna Smith muscled inside for 16 points. Libby Durham chipped in seven points.
The Royals led by 30 points with less than four minutes remaining, but the Panthers kept the final margin under with 13 points in the final frame by continuously attacking the basket.
It was a role reversal of the first half where the Royals disrupted the Panthers passing lanes with stout pressure.
Lori Thomas led the Panthers with 15 points. She shot 9 of 13 from the free-throw line, all coming in the second half.
“Give Knightstown credit. They continued to fight and put their hard hats on the second half,” Doud said. “They were doing in the second half what we were doing to them in the first half. And we struggled to respond. Thank goodness we had that large halftime lead because it carried us. As a coach, those are things that are a concern.”
The Royals are off until Tuesday with they host Cambridge City Lincoln at 7:30 p.m.