KNIGHTSTOWN — Out-sized by a few inches at nearly every position, Eastern Hancock’s strategy for dismantling Northeastern Tuesday in the Class 2A Sectional 41 quarterfinals at Knightstown was simple.
“Run, run, run,” EH coach Jeremy Powers explained after the Royals advanced with a 61-45 victory.
The Royals (17-4) will face Centerville (8-9) Friday in the semifinals in a rematch of a 41-38 regular season win by Eastern Hancock.
Powers’ team also defeated Northeastern (9-11) by three points in the regular season (50-47, Dec. 6), but the sectional sequel was no cliffhanger.
After a 3-for-19 shooting performance in the first quarter, EH trailed 11-10, despite forcing 12 Northeastern turnovers. As the Royals’ stroke began to equal their defensive efficiency, however, the balanced EH squad took over, outscoring the Knights 36-21 in the middle two quarters.
“We went back and looked at the film from the first game, looked at a couple other films and noticed that they’re a team, with all due respect, that doesn’t like to play a lot of defense,” Powers said. “So, we wanted to get up and down the court. Just run, get up and court and make their bigs have to work against us.”
Ahead 30-22 at halftime, the Royals opened the third quarter with a 12-2 blitz and never relinquished control, ultimately forcing 36 turnovers and holding Northeastern six-foot-2 senior and season leading scorer Hannah Adams (14.9 points per game) to six points on 2-of-7 shooting.
The Knights’ second-leading scorer this year, junior Marissa Webb (10.2 ppg), was limited to five points on 1-of-6 shooting.
Northeastern simply had no answer for the Royals on either end of the court. Despite the size advantage, NE was unable to mount an attack in the post, primarily because of difficulty getting the ball up the court against the Royals’ press.
When EH had possession, Kristin Eischen, Kaytlin Eastes and Kiersten Schrope drove the lane at will and, when they missed, the Royals more often than not were the first team to the loose ball. EH finished with a 41-27 rebounding edge.
It was a passionate performance by the Royals, who had ill memories of their regular season tilt with the Knights. EH got beat 22-13 in the fourth quarter of that matchup and nearly squandered the contest.
“I think the first game, we were beating them like we should have, and then we got comfortable because we thought we had it won,” Royals starting forward Alora Marshall said. “This time, we knew we had to come to play and play the whole entire game. So we were prepared to do that.”
Now the Royals turn their focus to what they hope is another improved effort over a regular-season performance. With the win Tuesday, Eastern Hancock improved to 6-0 this year against the sectional field, but the team isn’t particularly proud of its earlier victory over Centerville, when the Royals needed a 9-0 run near the end to escape with the 50-47 win in their regular season finale Jan. 31.
“We shot 14-of-60,” Powers said of the win over Centerville. “I can assure you we will not shoot 14-for-60 our next game. We did need to have a run at the end of the game to win, but we didn’t play our best game that night.
“And I told the girls after that game, ‘Let this serve as a wake-up call to you. Get it out of our system before sectional.’ And I think they’ve gotten that wake-up call, and we feel pretty good going into Friday night.”
The Royals went 20-of-64 from the field Tuesday, although they were 17-of-45 over the final three quarters. And they could afford to shoot a low percentage; the Royals’ defense kept Northeastern to only 39 field goal attempts, 25 less than EH.
Eischen and Eastes notched 13 points each for the Royals, with Eischen thieving a game-high nine steals and Eastes grabbing 10 rebounds.
Schrope had 12 points, 12 boards, seven assists and five steals. Hannah Best had nine points. And Lauren Harmon came off the bench for eight points.
Winners of seven straight games, EH is within reach of its first sectional title since 2001. In that sectional at Triton Central, the Royals opened with a 72-46 win over Knightstown, beat Speedway 61-51 in overtime, then defeated the host Tigers 66-58 in the championship.
It was the first sectional title in program history for the Royals, and this season’s group is just two wins from doubling the trophy case hardware.
“I think if you asked anybody on the team, they would say they’d definitely be disappointed (if EH doesn’t win a sectional), because we know we can win,” Marshall said.
“I know we definitely want it bad, but we’re really focused this year on not looking ahead. We’re confident, not cocky. We know right now we have to focus just on our next game, and that’s it. That’s our attitude.”
Eastern Hancock will take on Centerville in the first semifinal Friday at 6 p.m. Hagerstown (12-9) will face either Knightstown (13-8) in the second semifinal.
Hagerstown defeated Cambridge City (13-8) by a 40-31 score in Wednesday’s first quarterfinal game. Cambridge City beat Hagerstown twice in the regular season. Knightstown beat Union County 56-25 in Wednesday's second game.
The championship is Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Notes: Ashley Mosley led Northeastern with 11 points. … Four of the Knights’ five starters will graduate. Eastes is the only senior on the Royals’ 13-girl sectional roster. … EH went 2-of-17 from behind the 3-point line; NE, 1-of-10.
Class 2A Sectional 41 Quarterfinal at Knightstown
Eastern Hancock 61, Northeastern 45
EH — Schrope 5-14 2-3 12, Dickey 0-0 0-0 0, Eischen 4-8 5-8 13, Eastes 3-7 7-8 13, Best 4-18 0-0 9, Harmon 1-3 5-6 8, Marshall 1-1 0-0 2, Overleese 0-3 0-0 0, Neisler 1-6 0-0 2, Mourey 1-3 0-0 2, Spaulding 0-1 0-0 0, Mench 0-0 0-0 0. Totals — 20-64 19-25 61.
NE — Cannon 1-1 0-0 2, Shaffer 1-1 0-0 2, Mosley 3-10 5-5 11, Whirley 2-4 5-10 9, Sta. Adams 0-2 0-0 0, McKissick 0-1 0-0 0, Webb 1-6 2-2 5, H. Adams 2-7 2-4 6, King 0-0 0-0 0, Ste. Adams 4-7 2-2 10. Totals — 14-39 16-25 45.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
EH (17-4) 10 20 16 15 — 61
NE (9-11) 11 11 10 13 — 45
Three-pt. field goals: EH 2-17 (Schrope 0-3, Best 1-9, Harmon 1-3, Overleese 0-1, Spaulding 0-1), NE 1-10 (Mosley 0-3, McKissick 0-1, Webb 1-4, H. Adams 0-2).
Rebounds: EH 41 (Schrope 12, Eischen 4, Eastes 10, Best 3, Harmon 4, Marshall 2, Overleese 2, Neisler 2, Mourey 2), NE 27 (Shaffer 1, Whirley 1, Sta. Adams 5, McKissick 2, Webb 4, H. Adams 11, Ste. Adams 3). Assists: EH 12 (Schrope 7, Eischen 1, Best 3, Mourey 1), NE 5 (Mosley 2, Webb 1, H. Adams 2). Steals: EH 25 (Schrope 5, Eischen 9, Eastes 2, Best 3, Harmon 3, Mourey 2, Mench 1), NE 2 (H. Adams 1, Ste. Adams 1).Blocks: EH 1 (Schrope 1), NE 6 (Mosley 2, H. Adams 4). Total fouls: EH 20, NE 17. Fouled out: Whirley (NE). Turnovers: EH 17, NE 36.