After a slow offensive start to the game, Monroe Central (9-5) found its groove on both ends of the floor to pull away against conference rival Eastern Hancock (6-5), 60-47, on Homecoming for the Golden Bears.
“Good conference game. Well-coached team. They certainly can score points,” head coach Justin Ullom said. “I think we held them to 10 points less than they normally score. Anytime to win a conference game is good, but certainly on Homecoming.”
The Golden Bears knew what they had to defend tonight: the 3-point line. The Royals came out with four made threes in the first half of play, accounting for nearly half of their points. Freshman guard Silas Spaulding knocked down four threes to keep the Eastern Hancock offense alive. Ultimately, it was Monroe Central who turned the Royals’ mistakes into points on the other end.
Second-chance opportunities and 3-pointers for Eastern Hancock served costly in the first eight minutes of action for Monroe Central. Two made 3-pointers by sophomore guard Landon O’Neal put the Royals up, 16-12, entering the second quarter.
“I didn’t think we were very good stopping the ball and contesting shooters in our man-to-man, so we went to the 1-3-1, forced some quick shots,” Ullom said. “We were able to give them one shot, and rebound it, and really started pushing the ball out of it and turned into offense.”
Monroe Central’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Jackson Ullom, only had four points entering the second quarter. Jackson Ullom got his offense rolling, and he accounted for eight second-quarter points.
An 11-1 offensive run for the home team was a big reason to why the Golden Bears led the Royals, 30-23, at halftime. Jackson Ullom finished his night with a 20-point performance.
“[Jackson Ullom] finally started figuring out the way they were playing the ball screens,” Justin Ullom said. “He’s pretty good in that action whether he’s finding a cutter or splitting them and getting to the paint for an easy one, and that was the difference in the second quarter.”
The third quarter played a key role, as Monroe Central came out of the break making seven field goals compared to Eastern Hancock’s four. The Golden Bear defense was able to hold the Royals to just nine third-quarter points. Monroe Central scored 15 third-quarter points, and it was an 11-point game with eight minutes to play.
The last quarter saw Eastern Hancock attempt to fight its way back, but Spaulding’s pair of threes were not enough to give his offense the momentum it needed.
A big reason Monroe Central was victorious was offensive efficiency. Shooting 50 percent from the field on the night fueled the team. The Golden Bears connected five times from beyond the arc, but they turned to the paint to do a majority of the heavy lifting.
“We’ve got two pretty elite guards as far as driving the ball and getting into the paint. They both missed a few tonight, but we know they’re going to be contested down there,” Ullom said. “When they get into the paint, everybody helps, and then they find a big guy beside them, and we really did a nice job in the paint tonight.”
The Golden Bears put six different players in the scoring column. Senior guard Will Jones contributed 14 points, and freshman guard Luke Jones added eight. Sophomore forward Gavin Smithson-Burciaga had seven, most of which came from in the paint.
Eastern Hancock was led in scoring by O’Neal, who connected on three 3-pointers and totaled 16 points for the Royals. Spaulding also was in double figures with 12 points.
Monroe Central will be back in action Saturday night, as it plays host to Yorktown. The Tigers are currently 6-7 on the season.