First-quarter mistakes plague Royals in loss to Liberty Christian

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ANDERSON — With the IHSAA sectional draw taking place this past Sunday, Eastern Hancock already knows its postseason path.

But with three games this week to close out the regular season, the Royals have a chance to learn some and tighten things up as they head into the tournament.

Their first step in that learning process happened Tuesday night at Liberty Christian High School.

Against the Class 1A Lions (13-9), the Royals (10-10) couldn’t overcome eight first-quarter turnovers and an early 16-point deficit, losing the game by a score of 55-40.

“The good is that we learn the lesson that you have to play 32 minutes no matter who you’re playing, where you’re playing, or whatever the circumstance is,” Eastern Hancock head coach Brett Bechtel said. “You’re not going to beat any varsity team by playing only 24 minutes.”

Liberty Christian came out firing on offense taking a quick 7-2 lead, and after a free throw by EH’s Caiden Willis made things 9-3, the Lions reeled off nine straight points.

Jerramie Johnson buried a 3-pointer, TJ English scored a tough layup and then A’Marien Page forced the fifth Royals turnover of the quarter and took it coast-to-coast for a 16-3 lead, forcing Bechtel to call his first timeout.

Out of the break, another Eastern Hancock turnover led to the fourth straight Lions bucket.

“You can’t simulate this in practice. The only way to learn how to play against this type of athleticism is to play against it,” Bechtel said. “We didn’t get it figured out in the first quarter and got ourselves in a hole.”

Luke Schilling ended the run with a 3-pointer and later in the period a Kayden Ruble trey made things 20-9

Six more English points and another layup off a steal pushed the Liberty Christian lead to 28-12 after the opening eight minutes.

The Lions scored 12 baskets in the first quarter, nearly matching the Royals full-game total of 13.

“The game plan was to try and pack it in and keep them out of the lane and we did a really poor job of that in the first quarter,” Bechtel said. “We turned it over more in that quarter than we did the rest of the game combined, and you can’t give them that many free points.”

In the second quarter, two more Liberty Christian 3-pointers increased the lead to 17 points by the halftime break.

The Lions came into the night shooting 26% from beyond the arc and were averaging only 2.9 3s per game. On Tuesday they knocked down four first-half 3s and five total on the night.

“At one point they were 5-for-10 from deep. If they make shots like that they’re going to be really good over the next four weeks,” Bechtel said. “You can’t take it all away and that’s what we didn’t take away. Later on, they started missing and things went a little more like we wanted them to.”

After the 28-point first quarter, the Royals limited Liberty Christian to 27 points for the remainder of the game and scored 28 points of their own.

The early deficit was too much to overcome though.

A Caden Powers 3-pointer made it 47-31 to open the fourth, and then later in the period, another Powers trey cut the lead to 12.

The lead hovered around the 12-point mark over the final three minutes of the game, with the Lions running a slower offense and the Royals coming up empty on a few offensive trips.

“We missed a lot of shots but that’s going to happen and you have to find other ways to win, especially against a better team,” Bechtel said. “When you get yourself in a hole you have to find ways to climb out of it and that involves hitting some shots and we just couldn’t get it done.”

Ruble led the Royals in scoring with 15 points. Powers added 12 and Garrett Shaw scored seven.

English scored 16 to lead the Lions, followed by Johnson’s 15.

Eastern Hancock continues a busy week on the road at Union Modoc today at 6:30 p.m. in a rescheduled game from last Friday’s postponement.

Liberty Christian 55, Eastern Hancock 40

Eastern Hancock;12;9;7;12;—;40

Liberty Christian;28;10;9;8;—;55

Eastern Hancock (10-10): Kayden Ruble 5 4-8 15, Luke Morris 0 0-0 0, Caiden Willis 0 2-4 2, Charlie Halcomb 0 0-0 0, Luke Schilling 1 1-2 4, Eli Manship 0 0-0 0, Caden Powers 4 0-2 12, Garrett Shaw 3 0-0 7. Totals: 13 7-16 40.

Liberty Christian (13-9): TJ English 7 1-3 16, Kendrick Martin 0 0-0 0, Devon Kelley 5 0-0 10, Jerramie Johnson 5 3-5 15, Tywaine Fuller Jr. 4 0-0 10, A’Marien Page 2 0-2 4. Totals: 23 4-10 55.

3-point goals: Eastern Hancock 7 (Powers 4, Ruble, Shaw, Schilling); Liberty Christian 5 (Johnson 2, Fuller Jr. 2, English).