CLAY CITY -- Against the Union Bulldogs on Monday night, the Clay City Eels did everything to win against the visitors, except one thing. Hit their crunch time free throws.
The Eels had a three point lead with 1:04 remaining and the leading scorer of the game, Whitney McWilliams, standing at the free throw line. Warm up the bus right? Not so fast.
The Eels would miss the front end of three seperate one-and-ones at the free throw line and Union's Jenna Laxton made them pay dearly. Laxton knocked down a game-tying three-pointer with under three seconds remaining and the Bulldogs won the game in overtime at the free throw line, 54-42.
The Eels had solid leads several times in the game as the Bulldogs couldn't seem to find a way through Clay City's interior defense.
Union wasn't able to use their height as the Eels held 6'3" Emeral Halladay and 6'0" Nikki Frye to a combined 10 points and four-of-10 shooting in the first half. But the second half was a bit different as Frye got loose for eight second half points and Holladay had eight rebounds most on the offensive glass.
But the Eels were still in a position to win thanks to their solid team defense and Whitney McWilliams' scoring.
"The kids really played hard tonight," said head coach Chris Ross after the game. "They played well, but we just didn't finish them off."
After Union had closed to 19-18 in the third quarter on two Jenna Laxton free throws, McWilliams hit a short jumper in the lane to push the lead to 21-18. She then stole the inbounds pass and put home a lay-in and shortly thereafter drilled a 3-pointer to put the Knights up 26-18. McWilliams' personal run lasted less than 30 seconds and put seven of her 18 points on the board.
But Halladay's rebounding ability got Union back into the game quick as Kylee Kinnett hit the first of two free throws and missed the second. Halladay however got the board and followed with the putback to close the lead back to five. "I was disappointed in not being able to control her on the boards," said Ross. "We spread the floor out a little bit and we weren't able to block her out."
Turnovers plagued the Eels all night and the second half was no exception.
Three Clay City turnovers helped Union go on a 9-0 run to take a 27-26 lead on a Sasha Stanton lay-in late in the third. But the Eels would still lead at the end of the quarter as Amber Long and Kasi Thatcher hit shots sandwiched around a McWilliams steal and hoop. Clay City lead 33-29 heading into the final quarter.
Neither team had much scoring luck in the fourth but Clay City's Bryleigh Schopmeyer scored all six of her points in a burst that left the Eels up 39-36 with 1:45 left setting up the fateful ending.
"They fouled us at the end which is what they are supposed to do," said Ross afterwards. "We just didn't finish our possessions. When you do that those last second shots happen."
Clay City went 0-for-3 from the line in the final minute to give Laxton a shot at being the hero. Not only did she knock down the big 3-pointer but she also seven of Union's 15 overtime points as the Bulldogs hit 11-of-13 from the charity stripe in the extra session to lock up the win.
The Eels (0-2) will face Barr-Reeve at home on Friday night beginning at 6 p.m.