CHARLOTTESVILLE — Postseason high school basketball in the state of Indiana is high-pressure, grueling, hard to predict, and for all but one team, ends in a loss.
And more often than not, that loss comes sooner than you expect it to or want it to.
That was the case on Friday night for the host of Class 2A Sectional 42, Eastern Hancock. In a semifinal matchup, the Royals were defeated by Indianapolis Scecina 55-40.
Coming off of a season in which they advanced to the South Semi-State, and with four seniors in the starting lineup, the Royals finished the year 19-7 and the senior class cemented themselves as the winningest group in school history.
“It’s hard to put into words what this group has meant. Not only the past four years, but the past 13 years,” Eastern Hancock head coach Aaron Spaulding said. “As far as the past four years, they won more as a group than any group in school history. They had the most successful season in school history last year. Since I’ve been here, we’ve won 19 or more games four times, and three of those came in the last three seasons. I can’t say enough about them. They’ve been great, but the sad part is it had to end.”
After a 12-9 first quarter in favor of the Crusaders, the Spaulding brothers opened the second on an 8-0 run, and for the first, and only time all night, it looked as though the Royals were in control.
That sense of control was short-lived. Scecina answered with an 8-0 run fueled by Jordan Porter and Keaton Thibo 3s to take back the lead 20-17.
After a Grant Gray basket cut the lead to one, the Royals got the ball back with a chance to take the lead heading into the half, but off of a missed shot, the Crusaders took the ball coast-to-coast for a buzzer-beating layup to enter the half up 22-19.
“They had a great game plan and hats off to them, they played well,” coach Spaulding said. “There were times here and there where they had some things go right, and we had some things go wrong. A few shots here or there, and I think it would’ve been different, but you can say that about any game.”
Two Silas Spaulding 3-pointers to open up the second half gave the Royals the lead 25-24, but from that point on the Crusaders took back full control.
In a 29-28 game, Scecina ended the third on another 8-1 run. The Crusaders 6-8 forward Kaleb Milan started the run with a layup, and David Mendez finished it with back-to-back 3-pointers.
“He [Milan] did make a difference tonight, because then they can play out of the low post, and they kind of played through that,” the coach said. “They handled our pressure pretty well to where it didn’t disrupt them enough to make enough of a difference where the low post wouldn’t have an impact.”
A Jacob Spaulding 3 to open the fourth cut the lead back down to five, but that was the closest the Royals would get. They saw deficits of 37-32, 39-34, and then later 42-37 in the final quarter, but the well-balanced attack of the Crusaders kept them just out of reach.
“They were pretty balanced and have some guys that can do stuff,” coach Spaulding said. “Nothing was really stuff that we weren’t expecting, I thought their zone was effective against us, and some things just didn’t go our way tonight.”
And as the game went on, and fouls began piling up for the Royals, the offense began to falter even more. The Royals were outscored 18-10 in the final period, with the Crusaders going 12-for-17 from the free-throw line in the closing eight minutes.
Edric Miller played the fourth with four fouls, and Jacob Spaulding fouled out near the end.
“We played six guys pretty much all year, and that’s how we rolled and sometimes fouls get in the way, and that played a role tonight,” coach Spaulding said. “We’ve got to find ways to get over that, and we just weren’t able to do it tonight.”
Thibo led the Crusaders on a 13-3 run to close out the game, knocking down 8 of 9 shots from the charity stripe, and led all scorers with 21.
The Spauldings led the Royals. Jacob scored 16, and Silas finished with 13.
Scecina 55, Eastern Hancock 40
Scecina;12;10;15;18; — ;55
Eastern Hancock;9;10;10;11; — ;40
Scecina (16-6): Keaton Thibo 4 10-11 21, Jordan Porter 5 2-5 14, David Mendez 3 0-0 8, Mason Beriault 2 2-2 6, Kaleb Milan 3 0-4 6, Jaylen Long 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 14-22 55.
Eastern Hancock (19-7): Jacob Spaulding 6 1-2 16, Silas Spaulding 5 0-0 13, Edric Miller 1 0-0 3, Grant Gray 3 0-0 7, Kayden Ruble 0 0-2 0, Luke Morris 0 1-2 1, Caiden Willis 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 2-6 40.
3-point goals: Scecina 7 (Thibo 3, Porter 2, Mendez 2), Eastern Hancock 8 (J. Spaulding 3, S. Spaulding 3, Miller 1, Gray 1)