CHARLOTTESVILLE — Every time North Decatur tried to pull away, Eastern Hancock clawed back.
Neither team got a lead to double digits on Wednesday night, as the Royals and Chargers went back and forth for much of a boys basketball game. The Royals looked to take a one-point lead into the half, but a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from North Decatur gave the visitors the halftime lead.
The teams stayed close until the fourth quarter, when an 8-2 North Decatur run put some distance between them. The Royals fought back but couldn’t erase the deficit, falling at home 55-48.
“That’s a really good team. North Decatur has a nice ball club,” Eastern Hancock coach Aaron Spaulding said. “They have virtually everybody back from last year. Overall, they’re a veteran team, they shoot the ball well. I was pleased. I thought we did a better job tonight of establishing our inside game.”
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That inside game came largely from Peyton Gray, although several Royals contributed. Gray, who didn’t start after missing practice yesterday with a sinus infection, came off the bench and had a big game, helping keep the Royals within striking distance.
The 6-foot-7 senior center finished with a team-high 16 points on 7 of 13 shooting and added six rebounds and a pair of steals.
“When he came in, he did a nice job. Probably his best overall game of the year,” Spaulding said. “That’s certainly what we need from him, to make his presence felt in the post. I thought he did a good job tonight of that. Hopefully we can build on that.”
Another inside presence for the Royals was senior forward Brady Stephens. Stephens scored four points and added six rebounds. Joey Starrett, the team’s leading rebounder so far this season, added three points and four rebounds.
Skyler Schrope, a 5-foot-9 guard, led the Royals in rebounds with seven. He added three points, four assists and two steals in the loss.
The Royals were faced with a tough task defensively, guarding a team with good shooting but who had a strong inside presence as well. Chargers guard Garrett Wood finished with a game-high 17 points. Garrett Metz added 13 and Craig Adams had 11 for the visitors.
“I think defensively, that was a tough guard. They have a lot of shooters, yet they do a nice job utilizing the high post, short corner,” Spaulding said. “They got us a few times but for the most part, I thought we did a good job. We made a few mistakes, obviously, but overall I was encouraged by our play tonight against a good team. Kept ourselves in the game, but didn’t quite get it to where we gave ourselves a real fighter’s chance to win. But we were in it to the end. We’ve just got to keep getting better.”
The Royals started 3 of 10 from the floor in the first quarter but picked things up as the game wore on, eventually finishing the game 19 of 45 from the floor. The Chargers shot nearly 50 percent in the first half and finished 19 of 39 from the floor.
Eastern Hancock out-rebounded North Decatur by a narrow margin, 26 to 22.
The loss drops the Royals record to 4-4 on the year. For a team that started one freshman and saw another play big minutes, Eastern Hancock is making progress in the early season.
“I don’t want to necessarily call us young, because we have several seniors, but we are definitely inexperienced,” Spaulding said. “You know it’s kind of going to be uneven at the start. I was telling the guys the last few days, we’ve had stretches of basketball we’ve been very good, and we’ve had where we’ve not been very good. I thought tonight, start to finish, I was pleased with what I saw. A little more consistency on both sides of the floor.”
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North Decatur 55, Eastern Hancock 48
North Decatur (6-2): Garrett Wood 6 5-5 17, Craig Adams 4 0-1 11, Garrett Metz 5 0-0 13, Elijah Hoeing 2 0-0 6, Alex Stirn 1 3-5 5, Sean Means 0 0-0 0, Tyler Walterman 1 1-2 3, Blake Haley 0 0-0 0, Michael Schwartz 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 9-14 55.
Eastern Hancock (4-4): Skyler Schrope 1 1-2 3, Landon O’Neal 3 0-0 7, Brady Smith 3 1-2 9, Joey Starrett 1 0-0 3, Brady Stephens 2 0-0 4, Peyton Gray 7 2-3 16, Cole Rainbolt 2 0-0 6, Ian White 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 4-7 48.
3-point goals: North Decatur 8 (Adams 3, Metz 3, Hoeing 2), Eastern Hancock 6 (Smith 2, Rainbolt 2, O’Neal, Starrett).