By Brady Extin | The Times-Post
PENDLETON — Pendleton Heights boys basketball closed out its regular season in a hard-fought battle at home against Eastern Hancock.
With nearly every player in its starting five in foul trouble, Eastern Hancock held on to defeat the Arabians 61-57.
In a tightly called game, Eastern Hancock was in foul trouble nearly all night long. Kayden Ruble picked up his fourth foul at the 1:30 mark of the third, Grant Gray had four for the majority of the final quarter, Luke Morris had three, and the Royals leading scorer and primary ball-handler Jacob Spaulding fouled out with 3:40 left in the game and the Royals up just four points.
Close games with foul trouble issues have been nothing new to the Royals this season. They lost to Tindley in double OT 66-61 with Jacob on the bench and lost to New Castle by one just five days ago with Spaulding out.
This time though, the Royals showed they could win those types of games.
After the offensive foul that sent Jacob to the bench, the Arabians went down court and found Evan Mozingo open in the corner for a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 53-52. And after an Edric Miller layup, Pendleton Heights’ Dontrez Braxton knocked down a 3 of his own to tie the game for the first time since the opening quarter.
With the Royals go-to guy at the end of games on the bench it was two other seniors stepping up and commanding the offense.
With the game tied, Jacob’s brother Silas, hit a go-ahead layup to put the Royals up 57-55, and after a Josiah Gustin layup knotted things back up the duo controlled the clock and ran off a minute of game time before finding Ruble open for the layup that would prove to be the game-winner.
After a Miller free throw, Mozingo’s game-tying 3-point attempt went just long and a rebound and two more free throws from Miller sealed the win.
Miller led the Royals with 21 points, and scored seven in the final quarter.
The Royals controlled the game for most of the way with a nine point lead after one, and an 11-point halftime lead, but when the fouls began to pile up, the Arabians made their move.
Behind seven Aaron Cookston points, they outscored Eastern Hancock 20-14 in the third to enter the closing period down just five but a tie game was as close as they would get.
Mozingo led the Arabians with 16, and Gustin added 14.
Following Miller for the Royals was Grant Gray with 12, and both Spaulding brothers with 10.
Pendleton Heights played Tuesday night after press time against Richmond in the opening round of the IHSAA Sectional 9 tournament conducted at Muncie Central.