LAPEL — It might’ve been a Tuesday night in December, but it had the feel of a February game.

A big, raucous crowd, and a hard-fought battle between two Class 2A girls basketball teams with the expectation of playing deep into February.

No. 2 Eastern Hancock defeated state runner-up No. 4 Lapel on the road 62-55 to improve to 11-0 on the season.

The Royals have been no stranger to close, back-and-forth games lately, but for head coach Shari Doud this might’ve been the biggest win yet.

“This was huge tonight, just huge. Out of all the games we have on our schedule this was one that we had eyeballs on,” Doud said. “We knew it was going to be tough, and as everyone saw, it was a tough game.”

The battle between top five teams went as expected. The game saw 17 lead changes and came down to the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

Fourteen of the lead changes came in the opening half, and the teams went bucket for bucket to open the game.

The lead changed 11 times in the opening quarter before a Kenzie Koch 3-pointer and a pair of Sammie Bolding free throws gave the Royals a 15-12 lead.

The Bulldogs answered with two Laniah Wills layups and eight straight points before Bolding ended the run early in the second.

A Koch basket and free throw put the Royals back ahead 22-20, but a late Lapel 3 before the break put the Bulldogs ahead 27-26.

In the third, Eastern Hancock showed the ability for one team to pull away from the other for the first time all game.

A Bolding trey, two Makenzie O’Neal free throws, and a Koch layup put the Royals ahead 37-30.

Later in the quarter, Bolding’s third 3 of the game and another Koch basket gave the Royals an eight-point lead, their largest of the night.

“It was just executing game plans and reading each other. The more we play and the more time we get the better the timing gets on our cuts and screens,” Doud said. “Things were ran very well tonight and there was more discipline in our offense. We haven’t really been patient and disciplined to wait for passes and tonight we did that.”

To earn the win, though, the Royals would need to flip the lead one more time.

The Bulldogs reeled off a 10-1 run early in the fourth, capped off by a Wills layup and free throw to take a 46-45 lead with 6:44 remaining.

Over the final six and a half minutes, the Royals outscored the Bulldogs 17-9.

“That’s just how gutsy this group is. They’re gritty and they don’t get knocked back and not get back up. Their adrenaline gets going and they come back, they just do,” Doud said. “It’s one of those things as a coach that even when we’re down five or six, I can sit back and know that we will claw our way back. They’ve been able to do that lately and they answered again tonight.”

Koch’s third 3 of the night put the Royals back ahead and they never let go of the lead.

“[Koch is] a gamer. She puts thousands of hours into basketball, she’s confident and I’m confident in her. She did her part, got others involved and they did their part,” Doud said. “She’s not just capable of scoring big but she finds other people in the open court too. It was just a great night for the Royals.”

A Ruby White backdoor cut and assist from Brooklyn Willis, and then a Willis 3-pointer helped keep the Bulldogs at bay before a deep Koch 3 put them away for good.

“Other than just being proud, I really felt like this was the first time this season that we had a lot of contributions from a lot of different players at critical times,” Doud said. “Brooklyn hit a critical 3 again, Sammie knocked down big 3s, Kenzie hit big shots, and we were able to get it down and get Ruby some looks. We utilized all of our strengths in a very balanced way and I think that’s why we came out on top.”

Koch led Eastern Hancock with 23 points, Bolding added 18, and White finished with 10. Along with the late clutch 3-pointer, Willis found the basket two more times to finish with seven points, and O’Neal hit two late free throws to help seal the win and finish with four points.

Wills led the Bulldogs with 24 points and Maddy Poynter added 11.

Eastern Hancock 62, Lapel 55

Eastern Hancock;15;11;19;17;—;62


Eastern Hancock (11-0): Kenzie Koch 8 4-5 23, Ruby White 4 2-2 10, Sammie Bolding 5 5-6 18, Makenzie O’Neal 0 4-4 4, Brooklyn Willis 3 0-0 7, Sydney Springman 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 15-17 62.

Lapel (10-2): Laniah Wills 9 5-5 24, Madelyn Poynter 1 9-10 11, Sophie Goodwin 1 0-0 2, Jocelyn Love 2 0-0 6, Taylor Mroz 0 0-0 0, AnnaLee Stow 2 1-2 5, Rosemary Likens 1 0-0 3, Amyiah Nunn 2 0-0 4. Totals: 18 15-17 55.

3-point goals: Eastern Hancock 7 (Koch 3 Bolding 3, Willis); Lapel 4 (Love 2, Likens, Wills).