At halftime of Saturday’s home boys basketball game vs. Oldenburg Academy, the Eastern Hancock Athletic Hall of Fame will enshrine its two newest members: the 2002-03 boys basketball team and 1972 graduate David Smith.
2002-03 boys basketball team
Kevin Wright remembers his freshman season vividly. There he was, a 14-year-old going up against 18-year-old near-men. The 1999-00 Eastern Hancock boys basketball team finished 4-16 in what was coach Aaron Spaulding’s first — and worst, at least by record — year at the helm. Wright, Spaulding and the rest of the Royals lost 12 of their games by double digits, including a 48-point defeat to Cambridge City Lincoln and a 49-point loss to New Palestine.
“We struggled quite a bit, particularly in that first year when me and Derek Harmon were 130 pounds and handling the ball against full court presses all game,” said Wright, who along with Harmon wound up being four-year starters. “I can specifically remember getting beat by New Pal by 40 points that year. That really was motivation for us to work and get better and to never let that happen again.
“Three years later, we were beating teams by similar scores. We got an opportunity to really learn about not only high school-level competition, but the competitive nature of our group and the classes around us. We could have rolled over, but we used it as motivation to come back and fight again.”
From the ashes of 4-16, EH went 8-13 the next season before finishing 16-7 in 2001-02, blowing a late lead in the sectional finals to host Batesville.
Before they could find retribution for the Batesville loss on the basketball court, many of the Royals found success on the gridiron as Eastern Hancock captured its second straight sectional title.
Due to the football success, Spaulding only had eight practices to get his group ready for its opener, a late November trek to Centerville. Spaulding, who doubles as the Royals’ athletic director these days, knew he had a tight-knit squad — the same core was back for the fourth straight year after playing together in AAU and middle school ball.
But that 2002-03 group, molded by the poundings they took as wide-eyed and feeble freshman, had morphed into a collection of unrelenting competitors.