TRAFALGAR — With two starters sidelined by injury, the Royals are a team with little margin for error. So, despite commendable and mostly mistake-free effort, the Eastern Hancock boys basketball team is 0-2 on the young season.
The Royals hung with a solid Class 3A Indian Creek squad Saturday, only to fall 60-56. In their season-opener Wednesday, the 2A Royals led Centerville into the fourth quarter, but stumbled down the stretch on the way to a 45-37 loss.
“I told them, we figure out how to do two better things on the offensive end, two better things on the defensive end both nights we’re 2-0 instead of 0-2,” EH coach Aaron Spaulding said Saturday of his post-game speech. “So, we’re right there. Guys are having to do some stuff they’ve never done before, so I’m not disappointed with them at all. We just have to get better and find ways to win games.”
Victor Vincz, Hancock County’s leading scorer last season, and Cooper Henderson missed their second straight games with head and leg injuries, respectively. Best case scenario, Vincz, a senior point guard, could return for a Dec. 14 game against Knightstown and Henderson, a sophomore guard, might be back for a matchup Dec. 7 at Northeastern, Spaulding said. But their returns for those games are not guaranteed.
In the meantime, the Royals will continue to rely on players such as Isaiah McCormick, who scored a career-high 22 points for the Royals Saturday. McCormick’s 3-point attempt with 5.4 seconds remaining against the Braves (1-0, 1-0 Mid-Hoosier Conference) was barely off the mark; the miss left Indian Creek in front 59-56, and a Braves’ free throw provided the final margin. The Royals (0-1 MHC) were within striking range of Indian Creek all night; they outscored the home team by a total margin of 40-37 in the first, third and fourth quarters.
Ahead 24-21 in the middle of the second quarter, Eastern Hancock was undone by a Matt Wray-fueled spurt. The senior forward scored seven points during a 12-2 blitz that gave Indian Creek a 33-26 lead as the second quarter neared its close. The Royals never led again.
“They beat us down the floor a few times,” Spaulding said of the Braves’ decisive run. “We were picking up and pressuring a little bit; they beat our pressure. I think we got wore down there a little bit there in the second quarter, so we backed it off. In the second half, we didn’t get up and pressure them and I think we did a better job defensively. We just couldn’t quite cover it up enough.”
Wray, who came off the bench, notched a game-high 25 points, all of which were registered in the final three quarters. The six-foot-1 forward added seven rebounds and four assists and helped keep the Royals contained at every key juncture.
“I’m not sure why he was not in the starting lineup tonight,” Spaulding said. “He’s among their top five players, if not their best player. So, who knows what that’s all about? But we knew he was, we knew he was left handed, we knew he could play inside and outside a little bit. He was very good for them tonight.”
Freshman guard Cameron Smith added 12 points for the Braves. Combined, Wray and Smith knocked down 13-of-19 field goal attempts, part of the Braves’ 50 percent (21-of-42) shooting on the night.
The Royals also knocked down half of their shots — from the free throw line. Eastern Hancock went only 9-of-18 from the charity stripe, including 6-of-13 in the second half.
“We were 100 percent (against Centerville),” Spaulding said when asked if free throws would be an issue for his squad this season. “Obviously, we’ve got to put the ball in the bucket at the free throw line, there’s no doubt about that.”
McCormick went 4-of-4 from free throw line to cap a solid performance. Derrik Noel and Garrett Lee added nine points apiece for the Royals, who will host Southwestern (0-1, 0-0 MHC) Saturday.
And while Eastern Hancock will enter December without a victory, Spaulding is confident his team used November wisely.
“What we found out about ourselves ... obviously we’ve got some guys out, but with what we’ve got, we’re good enough to compete,” the 14th-year coach said. “We’re good enough to put ourselves in position to win, now we’ve got to figure out how to win.”
Notes: Spencer Gilbert led the Royals with seven rebounds. ... Eastern Hancock will have the week off before facing Southwestern, but the Spartans will host Jac-Cen-Del Friday. ... The Royals beat Indian Creek in the JV game 38-32. Sophomore Cole Fout had 12 points for EH. ... Spaulding needs one victory to reach 150 for his career. He’s 149-141 and his teams have posted five straight winning seasons entering this year.
Indian Creek 60, Eastern Hancock 56
EH — I. McCormick 8-15 4-4 22, Hancock 2-7 0-0 5, Lee 4-10 1-3 9, Noel 4-9 1-3 9, Wallace 3-5 0-3 6, Gilbert 0-1 2-4 2, Davidson 0-0 0-0 0, Hicks 1-2 1-1 3. Totals — 22-49 9-18 56.
IC — Beam 1-3 0-0 2, Wray 8-11 9-10 25, Blackwell 1-1 0-0 2, Robley 1-1 0-0 2, C. Smith 5-8 1-2 12, Schrougham 2-6 0-0 4, DeHart 1-2 2-4 4, Parks 0-4 0-0 0, A. Smith 1-3 4-6 6, Pugh 1-3 0-0 3. Totals — 21-42 16-22 60.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
EH (0-2, 0-1 MHC) 12 16 11 17 — 56
IC (1-0, 1-0 MHC) 10 23 9 18 — 60
Three-pt. field goals: EH 3-12 (I. McCormick 2-7, Hancock 1-4, Noel 0-1), IC 2-14 (Beam 0-1, Wray 0-3, C. Smith 1-4, Schrougham 0-2, DeHart 0-1, Parks 0-2, Pugh 1-1).
Rebounds: EH 22 (I. McCormick 2, Hancock 3, Lee 3, Noel 2, Wallace 5, Gilbert 7), IC 25 (Wray 7, Blackwell 2, C. Smith 1, Schrougham 5, DeHart 4, Parks 2, A. Smith 3, Pugh 1). Assists: EH 6 (I McCormick 1, Hancock 1, Lee 1, Noel 2, Wallace 1), IC 10 (Wray 4, Robley 1, C. Smith 2, DeHart 2, A. Smith 1). Steals: EH 4 (Hancock 1, Lee 1, Noel 1, Wallace 1), IC 5 (Wray 1, C. Smith 1, Schrougham 1, DeHart 2). Blocks: EH 2 (Wallace 2), IC 5 (Robley 3, Schrougham 2). Total fouls: EH 16, IC 19. Fouled out: Wallace (EH). Turnovers: EH 10, IC 16.
Eastern Hancock 38, Indian Creek 32
EH — Fout 12, Wallen 8, Splater 7, Lacy 3, Reece 3, Spegal 2, Davidson 2, Barton 1.