CRAWFORDSVILLE — The games are getting bigger, but the to-do list is getting smaller.

After some early-game struggles, Class 2A No. 3 Eastern Hancock, the highest ranked team remaining in the IHSAA Girls Basketball State Tournament, was able to put another check mark on its postseason to-do list with a 55-40 victory over No. 13 Parke Heritage in the Southmont Regional championship Saturday.

The game was closer than the final score indicates.

Eastern Hancock trailed by eight points in the first quarter and was still in a one possession game late in the third quarter.

A Sammie Bolding conventional three-point play to wrap up third-quarter scoring gave Eastern Hancock a 34-29 lead with 1:05 left in the period. It also got the senior to the 1,000-point milestone of her career. She currently has 1,001.

The Royals maintained a four-point lead or higher the rest of the game.

It’s the program’s second straight and second, overall, regional title. The team improved to 24-1. The 24 wins broke last year’s single-season record of 23.

“When I look up and see that sea of blue,” Eastern Hancock head coach Shari Doud said, pointing to the large contingent of Royals fans cheering on her championship team, “and see these kids in their uniforms sweating and smiling, it means the world. It’s important to me, too, but I like to do my part to put them in a position to win and to entertain that wonderful following we have. From that standpoint, we’re thrilled to be back where we are.”

Eastern Hancock trailed 12-4 with 2:46 left in the first quarter. The Royals followed with a bucket from Ellie Meyer, assisted by Kenzie Koch, and one from Ruby White, assisted by Bolding, to cut the deficit to 12-8.

Parke Heritage answered with a 3-pointer from Emma Simpson, who had 11 first-quarter points. She scored from deep, on drives, and at the free-throw line.

Koch banked in a triple at the first-quarter horn to cut the Wolves lead to 15-11.

In between quarters, Doud decided to make a defensive change in guarding Simpson.

Senior Makenzie O’Neal got the assignment. She shut Simpson down and the game began shifting in favor of the Royals.

Parke Heritage scored just one second-quarter point and Simpson had just nine points the rest of the way before fouling out.

“Makenzie O’Neal, I am going to give player of the game,” Doud said. “I know we had some kids step up and make big plays, but she was huge. The minute I put her on Simpson it was a game-changer. We watched enough scout to know we could get her frustrated, that’s exactly what Makenzie did, she frustrated her.”

“I’m very aggressive and very competitive,” O’Neal said. “She didn’t like the pressure and she didn’t like having someone all up in her face.

“It feels great knowing we aren’t done [playing] and we can keep going and go farther than last year and keep checking off the to-do list.”

The team made a chart that goes all the way to the Class 2A state title. They’ve checked off a couple of sectional victories, and now, another regional title.

The semi-state is next on the Royals’ to-do list.

They got to this round last year, but lost to North Knox in a semifinal game of the Shelbyville Semi-State. They are back at Shelbyville’s Bill Garrett Gymnasium this Saturday and will play Sheridan (20-5) at noon for a chance to reach the semi-state title contest at 8 p.m., against either No. 18 Linton-Stockton (20-6) or No. 15 Brownstown Central (18-9), the participants in the 10 a.m. semi-state opener.

In Crawfordsville Saturday, Koch started the second quarter as she ended the first. A pair of free throws and her second 3-pointer were the first five points of the period. It gave Eastern Hancock a 16-15 lead. Reaghan Benjamin hit a free throw, Parke Heritage’s only point of the quarter, to tie it 16-16 with 4:17 to go.

Bolding, who had 26 points and six 3-pointers in last year’s Southmont Regional win over University, hit the first of her three treys to give Eastern Hancock a 19-16 lead.

Later in the quarter, Koch went coast-to-coast after a rebound for a bucket and 21-16 lead. A Bolding drive for two accounted for the final points of the quarter with 1:55 remaining. It gave the Royals a 23-16 lead.

Bolding traded 3-pointers in the third quarter with Parke Heritage’s Addilee Jenkins and Addison Jenkins. Bolding’s second of the quarter and third of the game gave EH a 29-24 lead. She had nine third-quarter points.

“I think we were kind of overwhelmed at the beginning and it showed,” Bolding said. “Their pressure took us kind of by surprise even though we knew they were going to come with it. In the second quarter and second half we got locked it. We got in the right head space and we ran our plays and we were more calmed down. That really helped, we moved the ball well and we scored a lot more.

“It was [comfortable playing at Southmont again]. It felt like our home gym knowing we were here last year and we already won on it. It was a comfort feeling.”

Eastern Hancock closed it out in the fourth quarter hitting 11 of 12 free-throw attempts.

White had six of her 12 points in the fourth quarter. She was 5 of 5 from the field on the night. Koch hit 7 of 8 fourth-quarter freebies and led the Royals in scoring with 17 points. Bolding scored 14.

“I felt like after halftime we got things rolling and got a groove going on and we weren’t stopping from there,” Koch said.

White said, like the game against No. 15 Triton Central in the sectional, the Royals stayed composed in a tight, competitive game.

“Being down [eight] points and coming back to win by 15, composure is the entire reason why,” she said.

Doud added that the team will have to clean up some things to continue moving on in the IHSAA tournament series. The Royals committed an uncharacteristic 18 turnovers.

“Credit [Parke Heritage’s] pressure defense, they really got up in our grill,” Doud said. “We sustained composure enough to win a game. We made a lot of mistakes, there was a lot of ugly in this game, and a lot of big plays.”

Parke Heritage finishes the season 23-4. The Wolves had won 17 straight coming into Saturday’s regional final. The loss to the Royals was their first against a Class 2A team.

Eastern Hancock 55, Parke Heritage 40

Eastern Hancock;11;12;11;21;—;55

Parke Heritage;15;1;13;11;—;40

Eastern Hancock (24-1): Brooklyn Willis 1 0-0 2, Makenzie O’Neal 2 2-2 6, Ruby White 5 2-2 12, Sammie Bolding 5 1-1 14, Kenzie Koch 3 9-10 17, Ellie Meyer 1 0-0 2, Sydney Springman 1 0-0 2. Totals: 18 14-15 55.

Parke Heritage (23-4): Addison Jenkins 2 0-0 5, Emma Simpson 5 8-11 20, Addilee Jenkins 4 1-3 11, Andi Perkins 1 1-2 3, Cate O’Brien 0 0-0 0, Reaghan Benjamin 0 1-2 1, Kenna Batty 0 0-0 0, Mia Myers 0 0-0 0. Totals: 12 11-18 40.

3-point goals: Eastern Hancock 5 (Bolding 3, Koch 2). Parke Heritage 5 (Simpson 2, Al. Jenkins 2, As. Jenkins).