Off Target: Royals’ offense struggles in road loss to Arabians

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Eastern Hancock's Cole Rainbolt fights for a rebound over Pendleton Heights Ethan Ross on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. ( Tom Russo | Daily Reporter)

PENDLETON — The Eastern Hancock Royals’ road woes cropped back up again on Tuesday night.

After winning three straight home games last week to reverse a three-game slump, the Royals’ offense struggled against the host Pendleton Heights Arabians, leading to a 69-46 loss.

Eastern Hancock is now 5-5 on the road and 11-1 at home this season with a 16-6 record overall.

Pendleton Heights (8-13) trailed 6-0 to start the game, but an 11-1 run to end the first quarter put the Royals in an 11-7 hole that reached double digits just prior to halftime.

A 15-2 run in the third put the game in the Arabians’ control, and they never relinquished behind a trio of double-digit scorers and a collective 61.4 shooting percentage (27 of 44).

The Royals shot 29.6 percent from the field (16 of 54) and were 8 of 31 from 3-point range, a spot they have typically utilized to equalize their opponents.

“We just have to play better,” Eastern Hancock junior Landon O’Neal said. “We just didn’t play good, honestly. Offensively, we have to make different kind of cuts. I didn’t feel like we did that tonight.”

Jacob Spaulding led the Royals with 12 points on 4 of 9 shooting and a pair of 3s. Edric Miller had six points — both buckets on 3s — and Silas Spaulding contributed nine points with a three triples in nine attempts.

O’Neal hit the team’s other 3-pointer and added eight points in the loss.

“I’ll give Pendleton, first of all, credit because I thought they played excellent defense,” Eastern Hancock head coach Aaron Spaulding said. “We got a little bit better defense than we’ve seen the past couple of games, so we have to step up, and part of our shooting percentage was that we weren’t getting as good a shot as we need.”

The Royals had outscored their last two opponents 199-76. Through their prior three games, the Royals posted 64, 110 and 89 points totals to win.

Their 46 points against Pendleton Heights marked their fourth-lowest total this season. They had lost 48-42 at Heritage Christian in overtime on Feb. 13. They were beaten 51-36 at home by Morristown on Feb. 12 and lost 69-30 at Shenandoah on Jan. 23.

“We missed some open looks, and that’s going to happen from time to time, and we do rely on the jump shot a good amount, so there’s going to be nights, but we have to find a way to win when the shots aren’t falling,” Spaulding said. “That’s all part of growth. I thought this was a good test for us heading into sectional.”

Against Blue River Valley at home on Wednesday, Feb. 17, to open their three-game winning streak, the Royals were 11-for-30 from 3-point range.

Of their 110 points scored against Mid-Eastern Conference foe Union at home on Friday, the Royals converted 14 of 26 jumpers from beyond the arc.

They shot 18 of 35 from 3-point range against Hauser at home on Saturday during their 89-45 MEC victory to finish 7-2 for third in the league.

A spurt of two 3-pointers by Silas and Jacob Spaulding sandwiched by a steal and a bucket cut the Arabians’ lead 35-31 early in the third quarter.

However, a run highlighted by three 3s by Pendleton Heights increased the margin to 17 points at 50-33 by the start of the fourth quarter.

“We got to get in the gym, shake it off and get it back next time,” O’Neal said.

Jamison Dunham had a game-high 19 points with four rebounds and two assists for the Arabians, converting 7 of 10 shot attempts and 3 of 4 from 3-point range.

Gabe Simons had 12 points and nine rebounds and was 6-for-7 from the field. Josiah Gustin had 12 points and seven rebounds.

The Arabians’ shooting kept them in the game early despite committing 11 turnovers in the first quarter. They had 14 overall and scored 24 points on 6 of 11 shooting from deep.

Pendleton Heights out rebounded the Royals 36-21 and got nine points from Luke Weaver and eight points from Ethan Ross.

Drew White had seven points and five rebounds for the Royals.

“We’ll take it as that, a learning experience, get better and head into Friday night against a good Hagerstown because we drew them in the sectional,” Spaulding said. “From here on out, it’s sectional and we’re getting ready for that.”

Eastern Hancock travels to Hagerstown on Friday night to wrap up their regular-season schedule before turning around and facing the same team on Tuesday, March 2 in the first round of Class 2A Sectional 41 at Shenandoah.

“It’s definitely different, but we can do it. If we come out and play intense, I think we can make a run at sectional and deeper than that,” O’Neal said. “We’re definitely confident, but we definitely can’t overlook anybody. We have to come out and play.”

Spaulding echoed that sentiment.

“Tonight, I think they were just a little bit more hungry than we were,” Spaulding said. “We’ve talked all year that we have to be hungry and not get satisfied. Tonight, they wanted the win and were willing to do the nitty-gritty.”