CHARLOTTESVILLE — The Eastern Hancock girls basketball team adheres to the famous expression, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Credit it to being a veteran club with five key seniors, all are four-year varsity players.

Combined, they’ve logged a total of 447 varsity basketball games. Sydney Springman and Sammie Bolding have played 85 varsity games each. Brooklyn Willis has played 89, Makenzie O’Neal has 93 and Ruby White is the veteran of veterans with 95 varsity contests.

When things have gotten tough during this year’s IHSAA Girls State Tournament series, they and their teammates haven’t flinched.

For the second straight year, the Royals have won conference, sectional and regional titles. That group of seniors, and some others on the team, will be playing in their ninth postseason game over the last two seasons Saturday in the Class 2A South Semi-State at Shelbyville’s Bill Garrett Gymnasium.

The Royals are 24-1 and ranked No. 3 in the state, the highest-rated team remaining in the tournament.

They’ll take a 10-game winning streak into a noon tip-off against a talented Sheridan (20-5) team. At 10 a.m., No. 18 Linton-Stockton (20-6) takes on No. 15 Brownstown Central (18-9). The winners play at 8 p.m. for a spot in the Class 2A state championship game.

“This group of seniors have played a lot of varsity basketball games.” Eastern Hancock head coach Shari Doud said. “I bet if we were talking about them two years ago, I’d be concerned about our ability to keep our heads in the game during a time when you have to weather a storm from the opposition. This year they have grown mentally, emotionally, their basketball IQ, all of that has grown and it bleeds off to our younger players.

“That’s definitely the sign, and a luxury, of having a veteran team like this at this point in the tournament.”

In a sectional semifinal game against postseason rival No. 15 Triton Central, the Royals got off to a big lead early, but had to fight off a TC second-half rally to earn a spot in the sectional championship game.

Last week in the regional title contest against No. 13 Parke Heritage, the Royals trailed by as much as eight points in the first quarter. They didn’t blink an eye when trailing 12-4, or later 15-8, during the opening period.

They buckled down on defense, held Parke Heritage to just one second-quarter point and pulled away at the end for a convincing 55-40 victory.

“I don’t have any fear of that,” Doud said of her team getting into panic-mode when things get difficult. “There are going to be times in a game, when you get this far in the tournament, where there will be a stretch of play not going as well as another stretch of play, but I have no doubt, and I know they have no doubt — because of their nature on the court and how hard they play. That doesn’t change their mindset. They know they are going to keep grinding away and eventually that storm will be weathered and off we go.

“Like our game against Parke Heritage, we got off to a horrible start, but you could never tell with the body language of the kids or frustration on their faces, you didn’t see it. You just saw a group of kids that were going to grit their teeth and continue to battle through it and they did. That’s been the nature of this group.”

As Doud said, being this far in the tournament [there are only eight teams left], there are going to be some rough stretches.

Today’s opponent, Sheridan, has one of the most talented players in the tournament in 6-foot junior point guard Kenzie Garner. She averages 20.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 4.1 steals and 2.1 blocks per game.

She’s coming off a season-best 27-point performance in a 46-31 regional title win over Northeastern.

“[Garner is a] really versatile point guard at 6-feet tall. She sees the floor well, is very unselfish and can finish around the basket and hit the perimeter shot. She’s a handful and has a nice support cast around her,” Doud said.

The Royals are the only team in Saturday’s Shelbyville Semi-State that got this far last year. A year ago, Eastern Hancock lost to North Knox, a team that spent much of this year ranked No. 1 in the state before losing to Linton-Stockton in the sectional tournament.

The survivor of Saturday’s South Semi-State will play the winner from the North Semi-State, which includes last year’s state runner-up Lapel along with Fort Wayne Bishop Luers, Lewis Cass and Andrean.

IHSAA Class 2A

Girls Basketball State Tournament

North Semi-State

At Logansport (Saturday)

10 a.m. – Fort Wayne Bishop Luers (17-6) vs. Lapel (23-4)

12 p.m. – Andrean (13-14) vs. Lewis Cass (22-3)

8 p.m. – Championship Game

South Semi-State

At Shelbyville (Saturday)

10 a.m. – Brownstown Central (18-9) vs. Linton-Stockton (20-6)

12 p.m. – Eastern Hancock (24-1) vs. Sheridan (20-5)

8 p.m. – Championship Game