CHARLOTTESVILLE – In a back-and-forth game from start to finish, the 2A No. 14 Eastern Hancock Royals suffered their first Mid-Eastern Conference loss Friday night, 44-41 to the visiting Wapahani Raiders.
“Those were two good teams making big shots,” Royals coach Aaron Spaulding said. “We defended well enough to win the game, but our execution just wasn’t there on the offensive end.”
Both teams started slowly in the first half, each scoring only 14 points to head into the break, tied. However, both teams got flowing in the second half.
“That’s normal for games like this,” Spaulding said. “You’re not going to have many 14-point halves to begin with, and then when both teams get comfortable with what the other is trying to do, the game kind of opens up a bit as it goes along.”
Each time Wapahani looked to grab the momentum, Royals senior Tyler Castle hit a big shot. Late in the third quarter, after Wapahani had come back from a small deficit to take the lead for the first time since the first quarter, Castle nailed a three-pointer from the corner while being fouled. His biggest shot, however, came late in the game.
After Raiders guard Drew Luce hit a three to take a three-point lead with 45 seconds remaining, Castle took a pass in the corner again and calmly knocked down another three to tie it with six seconds remaining. Castle finished the game with 8 points.
The tie wouldn’t last long, however, as Raiders leading scorer Peyton West hit a three-pointer after a crossover with six seconds remaining to give Wapahani the winning points.
“We made a big shot, and they made a big shot,” Spaulding said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes.
But there are always lessons to learn, even in a loss, he said.
“I think we just need to focus more on executing on the offensive end,” Spaulding said. “They did well with their defensive pressure, but we have to learn to handle that better and not turn the ball over as much.”
The loss drops the Royals to 8-2 overall with a 3-1 record in the MEC. They next take the court at home against Waldron next Friday night at 7:30 p.m.