CHARLOTTESVILLE — Exactly one month after a thrilling overtime clash in the semifinals of the Hancock County Tournament, Eastern Hancock and Greenfield-Central delivered another round of tense basketball Saturday evening in Charlottesville.
When it was all said and done, the Royals finally caught a break in a season full of heartache, while the Cougars were once again left searching for answers.
EH prevailed 47-45 a month after it fell 54-53 to G-C in overtime, just one of the many times Aaron Spaulding’s crew has ended up on the short end of close games.
The blue and white have now won two games in a row — its first win streak of the season — with both being decided by 10 points or less. The Royals dropped their first nine in such contests.
“I’ve been telling the kids to keep fighting and sooner or later one’s going to go our way, said Spaulding, now in his 14th season at EH. “So maybe tonight’s one of those times.”
Down 47-45 with 5.1 seconds remaining in regulation, the Cougars (2-12) had a chance to send the game into overtime but missed a wide-open layup.
The Royals (4-11) found themselves down 44-38 early in the fourth quarter, but rallied behind Shane McCormick and Victor Vincz.
McCormick converted an old-fashioned 3-point play just under the five-minute mark, and Vincz followed that score up with a steal and a coast-to-coast layup to bring the home team within two.
Vincz — who Spaulding said has been playing with a broken left hand for two weeks — delivered what his coach termed a “vintage” Vincz performance, finishing with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
The senior guard, who led the county in scoring a year ago at 18 points per game, missed the season’s first four games recovering from a concussion and has been catching up on his conditioning ever since.
But on Saturday — despite playing with a wrap around his left hand and lower wrist — Vincz turned the clock back to his junior year, dashing to the hoop and knocking down mid-range jumpers. He scored or assisted on all of his team’s third quarter field goals.
“He’s starting to show signs of the Victor we all know. Last Saturday night he had a real good ballgame (14 points at Shenandoah),” said Spaulding of Vincz. “But we’re starting to see the Victor we’re used to seeing.”
When asked how Victor was coping with a broken hand, Spaulding smiled and spoke of a player who knows the clock is ticking on his high school career.
“He wasn’t about to let that get him down. He wasn’t going to miss any more games,” Spaulding explained. “He’s been a fighter.”
Eastern Hancock’s defense also played a role in its late-game rise, blanking Greenfield-Central after Zach Batton hit one of two free throws with 3:42 left in the fourth quarter.
The game’s final minute had Spaulding and G-C coach Josh Johnson both scratching their heads.
Up 47-45 with 31.2 seconds left, EH missed the front end of a one-and-one and threw away an in-bounds pass.
The Cougars eventually wound up with the ball, but had to call timeout with 9.9 seconds remaining after they couldn’t get into their play. The Royals then forced a tie-up with 5.1 seconds left. The Cougars retained possession before missing the game’s final shot.
“We ran the same play twice in a row and screwed them both up. We couldn’t handle the ball, we couldn’t handle the pressure,” Johnson said of the game’s final seconds. “I mean it’s … we didn’t get them ready this week. We didn’t execute when we came out of timeouts throughout the game.”
The defeat was the latest in a series of crippling setbacks for the program.
On Jan. 19, G-C was beaten 71-54 by Shelbyville. Afterwards, Johnson said the Golden Bears “had more heart” than his squad.
Last Friday, Pendleton Heights walked into the Cougars’ gym and handed the home team a 74-24 walloping.
“I’m frustrated because we didn’t execute down the stretch. We got on a little run — it’s a game of runs — then we let them right back in it by just dribbling right by us. I expected a much better effort tonight after (Friday’s) embarrassing loss,” explained Johnson, whose squad hosts Delta (5-8) Friday. “I would say I thought we would have an exceptional effort after (Friday) night and I can’t say we did.
“And when I say effort, I mean mental and physical. Our mental game wasn’t there.”
Johnson went on to say that his team’s youth — half of the varsity roster is made up of underclassmen — is no longer an excuse.
“How many times can we sit here and say we have a bunch of young guys? Because our young guys have been playing and other people are playing young guys too,” he offered. “We have to start performing on the floor on Friday and Saturday nights. We have to walk the walk.”
As for EH, things are looking up after it recently ended its eight-game losing streak. The Royals have winnable games upcoming against Tri (3-11) on Friday and Hauser (0-14) on Feb. 7.
And with his team the healthiest it’s been all season, Spaulding has his eyes set firmly on March.
“We’ve talked about getting better and better and we’ll be there when it counts,” he said. “…This year isn’t going to be any different.
“We’re going to keep getting better and we’re going to be a tough out in sectional.”
Notes: G-C’s Jordan Keener and EH’s Garrett Lee were honored by AAA Insurance before the game as members of the company’s All-Academic Team. On behalf of the two players, AAA will donate $250 to both schools. … EH inducted Joe Levering, Bob Oakes, Paul “Butch” Holliday and the 1968 sectional-winning boys basketball team into its athletic Hall of Fame at halftime. … Freshman Tate Hall had a career-best 18 points to lead the Cougars. … McCormick added 13 points and six rebounds for the Royals. … EH won the JV game 38-34. Dustin Davidson paced the victors with 13 points. ... Keener scored eight points after missing the Pendleton game with an ankle injury. ... Spaulding said forward Derrik Noel (foot) could return this week, but guard Garrett Hancock (mononucleosis) remains out indefinitely.
Eastern Hancock 47, Greenfield-Central 45
GC — Conley 3-11 0-0 7, Oleksy 3-7 2-2 8, Z. Batton 0-3 2-4 2, Hall 7-12 1-4 18, Wolfe 1-2 0-0 2, Keener 2-2 2-3 8, T. Batton 0-1 0-0 0, Gellert 0-0 0-0 0, Pribble 0-0 0-0 0. Totals — 16-38 7-13 45.
EH — Vincz 6-11 4-5 17, S. McCormick 5-7 1-1 13, I. McCormick 2-10 0-0 5, Lee 2-5 0-0 4, Henderson 1-1 0-0 3, Wallace 0-4 2-2 2, Gilbert 1-1 0-0 2, Fout 0-1 1-2 1. Totals — 17-40 8-10 47.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
GC (2-12) 18 7 15 5 — 45
EH (4-11) 14 11 10 12 — 47
Three-pt. field goals: GC 6-13 (Conley 1-3, Hall 3-7, Keener 2-2, T. Batton 0-1), EH 5-16 (Vincz 1-3, S. McCormick 2-2, I. McCormick 1-9, Henderson 1-1, Fout 0-1).
Rebounds: GC 14 (Conley 1, Oleksy 5, Z. Batton 5, Hall 1, Keener 1, T. Batton 1), EH 24 (Vincz 3, S. McCormick 6, I. McCormick 1, Lee 5, Henderson 1, Wallace 4, Gilbert 3, Fout 1). Assists: GC 9 (Conley 3, Z. Batton 4, Hall 1, Keener 1), EH 9 (Vincz 2, S. McCormick 1, I. McCormick 1, Lee 2, Wallace 1, Gilbert 1, Fout 1). Steals: GC 4 (Conley 3, Z. Batton 1), EH 5 (Vincz 1, Lee 1, Henderson 1, Gilbert 1, Fout 1). Blocks: GC 2 (Conley 1, Oleksy 1), EH 1 (S. McCormick 1). Total fouls: GC 12, EH 14. Fouled out: None. Turnovers: GC 8, EH 8.
Eastern Hancock 38, Greenfield-Central 34
GC — Robertson 2, Bean 4, Lowe 16, Stump 9, Pribble 3.
EH — Spegal 6, Barton 3, Wallen 7, Davidson 13, Splater 4, Reece 2, Lacy 3.