CHARLOTTESVILLE — Jeremy Powers refers to his team’s style of play as “relentless.”
First-time observers may call it controlled chaos. Opposing players may deem it exhausting.
Eastern Hancock gave Cambridge City Lincoln a full dose of relentless Wednesday evening, defeating the Golden Eagles 62-39 in a Sectional 41 quarterfinal contest in Charlottesville.
The Royals (16-4) advanced to play Hagerstown (15-5) in the second semifinal Friday after the Tigers topped Centerville 40-36 Wednesday.
Northeastern (1-16) and Knightstown (16-4) square off in the first semifinal Friday. The championship game is Saturday night.
Wednesday, EH’s 22 steals aided in 23 Cambridge City turnovers — 16 of which came in the first half — and resulted in run-out after run-out for the hosts. Rarely did the Royals have to slow down and engage in their half-court offense.
“Come at you all night, non-stop. We’ve preached that since Day 1, and we’re going to be relentless in everything we do offensively and defensively. I think that plays in the success,” said Powers, EH’s third-year coach. “They’ve bought into being relentless, and you saw a great example of that tonight.”
Powers added: “We’re going to play that pace, and we’re going to make teams play our pace. If they can’t play our pace, the result showed tonight.”
The Royals’ full-court pressure contributed to eight Cambridge City turnovers in the first quarter, but the hosts managed just a 10-8 lead at the end of the first frame.
EH then got a boost from freshman Emiley Carlton, who was coming off a season-best 17 points in the team’s regular-season finale win over Centerville.
Wednesday, Carlton accounted for the Royals’ final three points of the first quarter and her team’s initial seven points of the second stanza, scoring on a pair of swished 3-pointers and a duo of mid-range jumpers to push EH to a 17-12 lead.
Following Carlton’s burst, senior Kiersten Schrope, the Royals’ leader in points, rebounds, assists and steals, keyed a late-quarter run.
A Schrope steal-and-score and a Peyton Neisler bucket pushed the EH lead to 23-16. Then, Schrope canned a 3, sank a 2-pointer and hit Hannah Best for a triple right before the halftime buzzer, increasing the blue-and-white’s margin to 31-19.
“She makes us go. She does everything,” Powers said of Schrope, who finished with 13 points, six rebounds, seven steals and five assists. “She not only looks for her teammates, but when to take over the game.”
The Eagles closed to within 10 at 34-24 midway through the third frame, but a steal-and-score by Kristin Eischen and five points from Carlton increased EH’s lead to 41-26. Ahead 46-31 heading into the fourth quarter, the Royals prevented Cambridge City from scoring until the 4:20 mark of the final stanza, and by that time the lead had reached 22 at 55-33.
Carlton not only topped her previous career-high with 21 points, she added nine rebounds, three steals and a pair of blocks.
“She’s stepped up huge. Since the championship game of the Guerin Catholic tournament (in late December), she has really stepped up,” Powers said of Carlton. “Now she’s another weapon that we have; we’ve got a bunch of weapons, and you add her to the mix, and we’re even more dangerous.”
So far this season, EH’s style of play has produced a lot of benefits with a few downsides.
After Wednesday’s game, the Royals now have more steals than turnovers in 13 of their 20 games, average nearly 16 offensive rebounds a game (they had 10 Wednesday) and remain the fourth-highest scoring Class 2A team in the state at 66.2 points per game.
The drawbacks: EH has had more turnovers than assists in 14 games (broke even at 12 Wednesday) and the team averages 19.8 fouls per game (16 Wednesday).
And the Royals did indeed get a bit foul-prone in the third quarter, picking up their seventh team foul and sending the Eagles into the single bonus at the 2:41 mark. That allowed Kristen Meal, Cambridge City’s leading scorer, to pick up some confidence at the foul line after managing a single point in the first half.
“I think some of it was we were tired. I think we got complacent in the third quarter,” Powers said. “We did a very nice job on Meal; I thought we followed the scouting report well on that.”
For the fourth straight game, EH was without sophomore Darby Shaw (6.4 points, 7 rebounds). Powers said the forward is day to day with a minor injury.
“Hopefully, she’ll be back,” Powers said.
Friday represents unfinished business for the relentless Royals. Hagerstown floored EH 53-22 in its 2012 sectional opener. Of the Royals to gain major minutes Wednesday, only Carlton didn’t play in that game. The Tigers were also the lone Sectional 41 outfit EH didn’t suit up against during the regular season.
“We owe them. Two years ago they took it to us in the sectional in (my) first year here. We were young and green at that time, and now we feel like we’ve come full circle,” Powers said. “And now we feel like we owe them, and we just talked about that before we left, that we’re going to take advantage of the opportunity that we have Friday night.”
Notes: After finishing 17-5 last winter, Eastern Hancock has back-to-back 16-win seasons for the first time since the program had three such seasons from 2000-03. … The Royals improved to 7-4 against teams with winning records. … With seven steals Wednesday, Schrope broke her own single-season record. … Hagerstown rallied from a 22-13 halftime deficit Wednesday. … EH is 6-0 against Sectional 41 teams this year. … Knightstown is the defending Sectional 41 champion. … Meal lead Cambridge City with 15 points. … The Royals topped the Eagles 57-46 on Jan. 4.
Eastern Hancock 62, Cambridge City Lincoln 39
CC — Meal 4-11 6-10 15, Pennington 1-3 0-1 3, Hall 1-5 0-1 3, Klein 2-6 0-0 4, Bryant 1-2 0-0 2, Neff 5-8 2-2 12, Trumbo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals — 14-35 8-14 39.
EH — Schrope 6-16 0-0 13, Eischen 4-9 0-0 8, Harmon 1-3 0-3 2, Marshall 3-6 1-3 7, Neisler 1-3 1-2 3, Carlton 8-12 1-5 21, Mourey 0-4 2-6 2, Best 2-5 0-0 6, Overleese 0-0 0-0 0, Mench 0-2 0-0 0, Spaulding 0-0 0-0 0. Totals — 25-60 5-19 62.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
CC (10-9) 8 11 12 8 — 39
EH (16-4) 10 21 15 16 — 62
Three-pt. field goals: CC 3-11 (Meal 1-4, Pennington 1-2, Hall 1-5). EH 7-19 (Schrope 1-6, Eischen 0-2, Harmon 0-1, Carlton 4-6, Best 2-4).
Rebounds: CC 25 (Meal 3, Pennington 3, Hall 2, Klein 4, Bryant 5, Neff 8), EH 28 (Schrope 6, Eischen 1, Harmon 3, Marshall 2, Neisler 2, Carlton 9, Best 1, Mourey 1, Overleese 1, Mench 2). Assists: CC 8 (Meal 4, Pennington 3, Bryant 1), EH 12 (Schrope 5, Marshall 2, Mourey 3, Harmon 1, Neisler 1). Steals: CC 5 (Meal 1, Hall 1, Neff 3), EH 22 (Schrope 7, Eischen 1, Marshall 3, Neisler 3, Carlton 3, Mourey 4, Spaulding 1). Blocks: CC 2 (Meal 1, Bryant 1), EH 3 (Schrope 1, Carlton 2). Total fouls: CC 14, EH 16. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: CC 23, EH 12.