CHARLOTTESVILLE — Even on a night when Eastern Hancock’s normal marksman shooting took a while to hit target, the Royals boys’ basketball team was never in danger in Friday’s Mid-Eastern Conference basketball game against visiting Monroe Central.

It was OK for a few guys to be a little off, because the Eastern Hancock defense was in stellar form.

In the first 2:30 of the game, the Royals had forced five turnovers and a pair of Monroe Central timeouts.

Meanwhile, some easy buckets in transition gave them a quick 9-0 lead.

The Royals finished with 13 3-pointers, including hitting treys on four straight fourth-quarter possessions, and kept getting work done on the defensive side in a 59-31 victory.

“It’s really important (if we’re not shooting well), it could save us a game,” Eastern Hancock senior Edric Miller said of the team’s defense. “If one night, say like (Friday), we didn’t shoot it well at all, our defense would have saved us. We can’t get too reliant on how well we can shoot. I think we need to rely on our defense.”

Monroe Central committed 11 first-quarter turnovers and had 19 in the first half. For the game, the Golden Bears gave the ball to the Royals 25 times.

The Bears shot 46.7 percent (7 of 15) from the field in the first half, while the Royals were at 44.4 (12 of 27) overall and 38.9 (7 of 18) from 3-point range. Eastern Hancock took 12 more shots and were securely in the lead, 34-19, at the break.

Coach Aaron Spaulding said his team’s switching up defenses really helped.

“We kept mixing things up. They struggled with the mixing it up, and our pressure forced some turnovers,” Spaulding said. “It caused them problems. Defensively we did a good job staying active.

“I feel good about the overall effort. It may not have been a picture-perfect game, but, like I told (the team after the game), we played well enough to get a good win.”

The Royals finished, unofficially, 21 of 56 (37.5 percent) from the field and 13-35 (37.1) from 3-point range.

Senior Jacob Spaulding finished with 21 points, which included five 3-pointers. Miller had 13, all in the first half.

He was hot early, hitting 5 of 5 first-half fielders. Silas Spaulding had 11 points. Senior Grant Gray and sophomore Kayden Ruble also hit 3-pointers.

Eastern Hancock improved to 10-5 overall and 4-1 in the MEC.

They are one of three one-loss teams (including Blue River and Cowan) in conference play.

Wapahani leads the 10-team league at 3-0. The Raiders gave the Royals their lone league loss, on a buzzer-beater.

The Royals are back in conference play tonight, on the road, at Shenandoah (4-8, 1-3).

Monroe Central is 6-9 and 1-3 in the conference.

“I think we played well. (Monroe Central’s) goal was to slow us down,” Miller said. “I think we played with pace and I think we kept our cool (throughout the game).”

“We got out to a good start,” coach Spaulding added. “A lot of these games, the goal of the other team is to try to make it ugly. We’re just going to have to stay patient and stay with it. I thought, for the most part, we did a pretty good job of that. We got good shots, didn’t shoot it great. We hit enough and played with good energy on defense.”

Eastern Hancock 59, Monroe Central 31

Monroe Central;9;6;6;10;—;31

Eastern Hancock;16;18;11;14;—;59

Monroe Central (6-9, 1-3): Alden Mahaffey 5 0-0 11, Easton Foster 5 1-2 11, Cole Munchel 2 1-2 5, Blake Bogue 0 0-0 0, Hayden Taylor 1 1-2 3, Josiah Cleveland 0 1-2 1, Trystyn Thornburg 0 0-0 0, Carter Duncan 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 4-8 31.

Eastern Hancock (10-5, 4-1): Edric Miller 5 0-0 13, Grant Gray 2 1-2 6, Kayden Ruble 2 0-0 5, Silas Spaulding 4 0-0 11, Jacob Spaulding 7 2-5 21, Luke Morris 0 1-2 1, Caiden Willis 1 0-0 2, Jayden Stine 0 0-0 0, Charlie Halcomb 0 0-0 0, Eli Manship 0 0-0 0, Garrett Shaw 0 0-0 0. Totals: 21 4-9 59.

3-point goals: Monroe Central 1 (Mahaffey); Eastern Hancock 13 (J. Spaulding 5, Miller 3, S. Spaulding 3, Gray 1, Ruble 1).