The Clay City Eels are finally beginning to get some of the respect that they deserve and it only took wins over the former No. 2 ranked team in Class A, White River Valley, a tough North Central (Farmersburg) team, who has a a record of 5-3 now and a solid South Putnam team on Tuesday night. A 9-2 mark overall earned the Eels a No. 7 ranking this week in the Associated Press Coaches' Poll. Their reward for playing such a wild, difficult schedule so far?
How about a date with Class 2A's No. 6 ranked Eastern (Greene) Thunderbirds.
The Thunderbirds will be Clay City's fourth ranked opponent of the season this Friday night at 6:30 p.m. in the Eels' gym.
Eastern features 6'7 monster Clint Burris who piled in 26 points and snagged eight rebounds in his last game versus White River Valley. But what makes the Thunderbirds so good are his complements.
"Clint (Burris) is a matchup problem for about everyone," said Clay City coach Grant McVay. "Obviously he's very good, but they've go very good complementary players in (Nathan) Martindale and (Brett) Crowe."
The 6'0 Martindale had 19 points in Eastern's loss to North Central in the Greene County tournament and Crowe added 18 in that game as Burris had a sub-par 10 points in the game. So Eastern has players that can step up and take up the slack if you shut down one weapon.
"They're very well coached as well," commented McVay after the South Putnam game. "It'll take a team effort on our behalf to take away their strengths."
Those strengths are pretty widely varied for Eastern, but the Eels have seemingly developed a very high mental toughness over the last couple of weeks. Something that comes from being battle tested over the season to this point. Some less experienced teams might have lost their focus throughout the grind of playing four games in the past week, but the Eels have pushed through to win their last six games, two in double overtime. McVay attributes this to his seniors.
"It's not a bad thing (to have so many tough games in a row) as long as they are ready to play. You don't get through last week without a good mental approach. It's a true test of our maturity with our seniors."
The Eels will get a bit of a breather after the Eastern game with a week off before their following game against another tough opponent in Sullivan. But Clay City has the strength and mentality to get another "W" this weekend and what better way to celebrate than with a bit of a vacation.