Friday evening should be another good test for the Clay City Eels as they test the Greene County tournament semifinal waters against White River Valley.
The host Wolverines advanced to the second round with a 63-56 victory over a tough Linton ball club.
A.J. Graves provided over half of WRV's points with a 36 point evening including five from long range. Graves added 12 clutch points in the fourth quarter without missing a shot from the field.
If the game is anything like last year's contests, it should certainly be worth the price of admission.
Last year on the Wolverine's home court the Eels led by as many as 13 points in the first half before WRV crept back into the game as junior James Floyd and Graves scored the first seven points of the second half. Graves had 25 in the game as the Wolverines won in overtime.
On Jan. 24 WRV trailed by one after three quarters at Clay City before Graves drilled 19 points into the Eels in the final quarter as the Wolverines won 60-50. Graves had 29 in that game so Clay City will need to be very conscious of his whereabouts.
The Eels had almost three weeks of downtime before defeating Vincennes Rivet on Tuesday night so they've had plenty of preparation time, but according to coach Grant McVay they haven't concentrated on one specific team.
"The break worked out well for us this year," commented McVay. "We've got a lot of juniors and seniors who have been playing for three years. We were able to take five days off, then practice for two more, then take another three off to recharge our batteries mentally and physically."
That experience should help the Eels defensively against the explosive Wolverines. "For us, our philosophy is that we want to be fundamentally sound on defense," said McVay. "We can adapt things to different opponents, but we don't have to change things drastically."
The Eels were able to turn up the defensive pressure on Rivet in the third quarter, forcing eight turnovers, as Clay City made a strong run to victory on Tuesday.
Friday night they won't be able to take any time off against WRV and particularly Graves who comes into the game averaging 20+ points a game and has NBA range.
For the Eels, Matt Farmer will likely be an important factor coming off a 22 point, seven rebound game versus Rivet. In last year's game at WRV, Farmer had just three points. His size inside and aggressiveness will be important in complementing the guard play from the Eels.
Clay City should be ready for WRV this go round and won't need any extra motivation after last year's games. The Eels will need to contain Graves from scoring an obscene amount of points and put the clamps on the rest of his teammates. If they can control the boards and limit any second-chance Wolverine baskets they could take down the second-ranked, single-A Wolverines.