Wolves fall to third-ranked Eastern Hancock

Feb. 10—When star freshman Kenzie Koch of Eastern Hancock banked in a 30-footer at the first-quarter buzzer Saturday night at the Class 2A girls high school basketball regional game at Southmont, it did several things.

It halted the momentum of Parke Heritage's good start, it started the Royals' run that turned the game around — and it may have been a signal that the Wolves were not going to have the luckiest of nights.

A 15-1 run by the Royals wiped out the 15-8 lead that Parke Heritage enjoyed before Koch's desperation shot, and the third-ranked team in Class 2A — thanks to Linton, the highest-ranked team still in the tournament — led the rest of the way in a 55-40 win.

It was a most deceiving final score, because the Wolves were forced to foul in the final 49 seconds of the game and the Royals hit eight straight free throws. And the Wolves were forced to foul, down 47-40, because Koch's shot and another banked-in 2-pointer later in the game made it a seven-point margin instead of a two-point deficit.

It was the second of the Wolves' four losses in which a bank shot was critical. Early in the season, Northview won at Parke Heritage on a bank shot at the buzzer, and coach Mark Harper of the Wolves hadn't forgotten.

"We live on the banks of the Wabash River," he pointed out, "but the banks haven't helped us."

Coming in as underdogs, the Wolves looked like anything but that in the first quarter. They scored nine straight points to take a 12-4 lead, and a 3-pointer by Emma Simpson made it 15-8 and gave the Parke Heritage star 11 points.

"We didn't want to go out there and let [the Royals] do what they wanted, so we had to come out strong," Simpson said after the game. But her point total wasn't a good omen either.

Eastern Hancock made a defensive switch for the second quarter, putting the bigger Makenzie O'Neal on Simpson and when that — and foul trouble — limited Simpson, her teammates weren't yet ready to step up. The Wolves got just one point, a free throw by Reaghan Benjamin, in the second quarter and went to the halftime locker room trailing 23-16.

"One point in the second quarter? That's not like us," said Harper, who had watched several of his team's second-quarter shots go in and out.

Simpson opened the third quarter with a basket, and back-to-back 3-pointers by the Jenkins twins cut the lead to 26-24. Another 3-pointer by Addilee Jenkins cut the lead to 31-29 late in the third period. But the Wolves — limited to 26% shooting by the Eastern Hancock defense — could never get over the hump. "We played out of script at times, and we can't do that," Harper said.

It was still a 38-34 game two minutes into the fourth quarter, but then the Wolves went cold at the foul line. As the two teams traded scores, Parke Heritage went 4 for 9 from the line, thus gradually falling farther behind.

Koch was held to 17 points (1'her average) and needed nine fourth-quarter free throws to get that big a total. She was 3 for 16 from the field, although she did have 10 rebounds.

"I felt like we did a fairly decent job on her," Harper said.

Sammie Bolding added 14 points, however ["She's a softball signee at Toledo, so she's a Division I athlete — and she hit some daggers," Harper said], and O'Neal and 6-1 Ruby White both had perfect shooting nights while combining for 18 points and 13 rebounds.

"[The Royals] definitely had a size advantage on us," said Simpson when asked about Eastern Hancock's defensive work.

Simpson finished her junior season with 20 points, nine rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block, and Addilee Jenkins had 13 points and eight rebounds.

"I thought we wanted it more than them," Simpson said, shrugging, "but . . ."

EASTERN HANCOCK (55) — Koch 3-16 9-10 17, O'Neal 2-2 2-2 6, White 5-5 2-2 12, Willis 1-2 0-0 2, Bolding 5-15 1-1 14, Meyer 1-1 0-0 2, Springman 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 18-42 FG, 14-15 FT, 55 TP.

PARKE HERITAGE (40) — Simpson 5-18 8-11 20, Al.Jenkins 5-10 1-3 13, O'Brien 0-3 0-0 0, As.Jenkins 1-3 0-0 3, Perkins 1-5 1-2 3, Benjamin 0-8 1-2 1, Batty 0-0 0-0 0, Myers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 12-47 FG, 11-18 FT, 40 TP.

Eastern Hancock 8 15 11 21 — 55

Parke Heritage 15 1 13 11 — 40

3-point shooting — EH 5-15 (Bolding 3-9, Koch 2-6), PH 5-17 (Simpson 2-5, Al.Jenkins 2-6, As.Jenkins 1-3, Perkins 0-1, O'Brien 0-2). Total fouls — EH 17, PH 16. Fouled out — Simpson. Turnovers — EH 15, PH 13. Rebounds — EH 34 (Koch 10), PH 33 (Simpson 9, Al.Jenkins 8, As.Jenkins 6, Benjamin 3, O'Brien 1, Perkins 1, Team 5). Assists — EH 8 (O'Neal 3, White 2, Bolding 2, Willis), PH 8 (Simpson 5, Perkins 2, Al.Jenkins). Steals — EH 8 (O'Neal 3, Bolding 3), PH 11 (Simpson 3, Benjamin 3, Al.Jenkins 2, O'Brien, As.Jenkins, Perkins). Blocks — EH 4 (White 4), PH 3 (Simpson, Al.Jenkins, Perkins).

Next — Eastern Hancock (24-1) will learn Sunday about their semistate assignment. Parke Heritage finished 23-4.

—Moving on — In other regional games Saturday, Linton defeated North Decatur 37-30 and North Central downed Bethesda Christian 55-50.

The Miners, now 20-6, will be one of the other three teams in the Class 2A semistate that includes Eastern Hancock. North Decatur finished 18-7.

North Central, 18-10, will play in a Class A semistate next Saturday, while Bethesda Christian finished 18-6.

In games out of the area, Plainfield defeated Pike 48-43 in a Class 4A regional — the Garfield Granddaughters, Berkeley Williams and Hannah Menser, led the way with 15 and 12 points respectively — and Caston beat Bethany Christian 44-29 in a northern Class A regional. Caston is coached by former Riverton Parke coach Josh Douglass, whose daughter is a freshman guard on the team.