HAGERSTOWN — There were moments, fleeting as they may have been, when it looked like Eastern Hancock was going to do it again.
A year ago, the Royals dropped their season finale 53-50 to Hagerstown — something they repeated this season, losing to the Tigers 58-47 last Friday — only to rebound in the sectional quarterfinals with 69-51 victory.
But heart and soul can only take a team so far, steady scoring is needed to advance in the postseason, and EH struggled in that category all season.
The Royals’ fatal flaw reappeared once more Wednesday in the 2A Sectional 41 quarterfinals at Hagerstown, as the host Tigers dispatched Eastern Hancock 53-46.
2A No. 16 Hagerstown (20-2) advanced to play Centerville (10-10) today in the second semifinal at 7:30 p.m. The Bulldogs felled Cambridge City Lincoln 54-42 in Wednesday’s first quarterfinal.
Northeastern (11-9) takes on defending sectional champion Union County (16-6) in today’s initial semifinal at 6 p.m.
With 38 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Garrett Hancock sunk two free throws to bring EH (6-15) within a point at 40-39, and to complete a 16-point quarter.
The Royals wouldn’t score again until Isaiah McCormick’s triple cut the Tigers’ margin to 48-42 with four minutes and 26 ticks left in the fourth quarter.
In the second quarter, Eastern Hancock was ahead 20-14 with 3:58 left, but McCormick’s 3-pointer was the lone field goal for the Royals during a 15-3 Tiger run to close the half, and EH trailed 29-23 at the break.
All season long, Aaron Spaulding’s team was been prone to scoring droughts — the current group was his lowest scoring team (50 ppg) since the 2005-06 unit (47.7) — that made it seem as if getting a bucket was as difficult as learning a new language.
“That comes from not having a big kid that we can say, ‘Let’s go to the post and get to the foul line,’” said the 14th-year coach. “Real honestly, we kind of have to earn everything.
“Sometimes it goes dry on us and that allows teams to get a lead, especially good teams. We had a couple of those tonight, and ultimately that’s probably the difference.”