GREENSBURG — The Eastern Hancock Royals can finally talk about their winning streak, but not for the reason they wanted.
Entering Wednesday night’s road matchup against North Decatur, the tight-lipped Royals were a perfect 7-0 — the program’s best start since 1989-90.
Now, there’s no longer a risk of jinxing their flawless run as they were forced to reset the counter after falling to the host Chargers 68-60.
North Decatur’s Dylan Mann shot 6 of 8 from the field, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range, for a game-high 23 points, while the Chargers built a 19-point second-half lead to fend off the Royals (7-1).
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The Chargers (5-3) shot 10 of 14 from deep, and they were 6 of 9 before halftime to go up 29-15 by the break. Their contagious perimeter shooting put them ahead 45-26 in the third quarter before the Royals rallied back.
“That was one of the things we talked about going in. We couldn’t let them get hot,” Eastern Hancock senior guard A.J. Muegge said. “They got hot, and we didn’t defend it well enough. We were finally able to slow them down, but it was too little too late.”
The Royals jumped in front 6-5 early in the first quarter behind a Tyler Castle trey and another by Brycen Napier, who started in place of an ill Duncan Cherry.
From there, however, the Chargers marched forward with a 15-2 run and an 8-0 run to end the first half.
The Chargers had three players finish the night in double-figures with Cameron Adams and Garrett Metz both posting 13 points.
Four different Chargers buried at least one 3-pointer with Metz and Adams both chipping in a pair. Braden Blauvelt also had two. His second helped the Chargers establish their second 19-point advantage in the third quarter.
“We fought back, but we came out flat and got ourselves in a big hole,” Eastern Hancock head coach Aaron Spaulding said. “We did try to dig ourselves out and almost got there, but against a nice Decatur Central team, at their place, it’s hard to come all the way back from that big of a hole.”
The Royals had a trio of players finish in double-digit scoring with Castle recording a team-high 15 points. Addison True and Muegge both had 13, while Tyler Blattner chipped in nine.
Eastern Hancock made their push late in the third with a 6-0 run that stretched to 8-0 entering the fourth. The Royals converted five 3-point jumpers in the final frame — 10 of 34 overall — to chip away at the deficit.
A three by True, who had a team-high eight rebounds, slice the Chargers lead to 50-43 with 4:30 remaining. An and-1 by True put the Royals in position to strike 52-48, which Napier did with another key trey, 53-51 with 3:09 left.
A Blattner 3-pointer with under three minutes narrowed the gap 55-54, but the Chargers used the foul line to escape. North Decatur converted 15 of 21 foul shots in the fourth quarter to maintain their lead.
They were 22 of 33 overall in the game from the foul line compared to the Royals, who were 8 of 12 in their limited opportunities.
“They are very good shooters. We talked about getting out to their shooters, and early in the game we just didn’t defend well enough,” Spaulding said. “Once a team starts hitting the bucket, it’s hard to get it stopped.”
With the streak over, the Royals are eager to move on with their primary goals still intact: winning the Mid-Eastern Conference and possibly sectional at season’s end.
Eastern Hancock is 2-0 in the MEC with two league games approaching. The first is Dec. 29 at home against Daleville and the next at home against Wapahani on Jan. 5.
“We haven’t lost in the conference yet, so that’s a big focus of ours. You can’t get complacent when you’re winning. You have to stay hungry, and hopefully, that will give us a little wake up call, so we can start another streak,” Spaulding said.