By Brady Extin | Daily Reporter

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — After achieving her 100th career win at Eastern Hancock just one game prior, a new milestone was on the table for girls basketball head coach Shari Doud Tuesday night.

Behind her team’s stellar defensive performance, she earned her 300th career win in the Royals’ 41-24 Mid-Eastern Conference victory over Monroe Central.

“I’m just always going to go back to the team effort, not just tonight, but every season I’ve coached and wherever I’ve coached. I’ve had great staffs, and have been blessed with talent everywhere,” Doud said. “It’s easy to collect wins as a coach when you have these kinds of kids to work with.”

This season is Doud’s 19th as a head coach. She had two stops before becoming the Eastern Hancock mentor in 2016. Her first season was in 2001 with Greenfield-Central, where she picked up 13 wins. She then spent 11 years at Pendleton Heights, where she earned 186 victories, three sectional titles and a regional championship.

“It also says I’m getting older. Anybody that coaches that many wins has been at it a while,” Doud said laughingly.

While the 300th career win was special, Doud was more pleased with another reason the Royals’ victory was so important.

With the win, the Royals remained in first place in the MEC, giving the Golden Bears their first conference loss of the season.

“That’s all behind us now, and the most important thing is that was a conference win against a team that came in undefeated in conference,” Doud said. “To me, that was a bigger reason for the win, and trumps a coaching milestone any day of the week.”

Normally, Eastern Hancock’s success comes from both sides of the ball, but on an off-night shooting, it was the Royals’ defense that shined by itself.

Eastern Hancock held Monroe Central to just 10 first half points, and 24 points overall.

For Doud, the defensive performance could be summed up into one word — grit.

“That’s all I can say about this group. We struggled from the field offensively tonight. Our percentages were awful from the line and the field, but we still come away with a fairly comfortable win. That was all because of our grit defensively,” Doud said. “We’re not very big, but sometimes there’s an advantage to that because then you have speed and quickness, and that’s exactly what we have.”

That speed and quickness led, unofficially, to 28 Monroe Central turnovers and 15 Eastern Hancock steals.

The defense helped carry an Eastern Hancock offense that couldn’t find a rhythm, and was held to nearly 16 points under their season average of 56.8 points per game.

“I’ve got to credit Monroe Central. They play a sagging man-to-man or packline defense. If their man doesn’t have the ball, they’re just crowding the paint. That kind of knocks you back on your heels offensively, and doesn’t give you a flow and movement in your offense. It’s almost like a psychological defense, so-to-speak,” Doud said. “It’s just one of those nights, and we preach that. You aren’t always going to shoot the ball well, and when you don’t, but you play defense like we did, you can still come away with the win.”

A Grace Stapleton 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the first half gave the Royals a double-digit halftime lead 21-10.

The lead hovered around 10 points until midway through the fourth quarter, when the Royals reeled off a 10-0 run.

A Makenzie O’Neal 3-pointer, two Sydney Springman layups, and a Stapleton layup and free throw pushed the Eastern Hancock lead to 40-19 and out of the Golden Bears’ reach.

Stapleton led all scorers with 14 points.

Kimber Abshear and Sydney Patterson led Monroe Central with 11 points each.

Eastern Hancock’s next game is another important MEC matchup on the road at Blue River Valley, Tuesday, Jan. 3.

“We have another big one ahead of us Tuesday at Blue River,” Doud said. “We’re not in this to share any kind of title, we’re in this to win it outright, and we have the crew to do it. They show up to play and compete every single night.”

Eastern Hancock 41, Monroe Central 24

Monroe Central (7-7):2;8;6;8;-;24

Eastern Hancock (12-3):10;11;7;13;-;41

Monroe Central: Kimber Abshear 4 3-9 11, Sydney Patterson 4 1-2 11, Maleigh Ervin 0 0-0 0, Audrey Keeley 0 0-3 0, Addison Puckett 0 0-0 0, Maggie Haney 0 0-0 0, Aubrey Johnson 0 2-2 2. Totals: 8 6-16 24.

Eastern Hancock: Grace Stapleton 5 2-6 14, Sammie Bolding 3 1-2 9, Emma Bolding 1 1-2 3, Makenzie O’Neal 3 0-0 7, Ruby White 0 1-2 1, Sydney Springman 2 0-1 4, Brooklyn Willis 1 1-2 3. Totals: 15 6-15 41.

3-point goals: Monroe Central 2 (Patterson 2), Eastern Hancock 5 (Stapleton 2, S. Bolding 2, O’Neal 1)