PUTNAMVILLE -- The weightlifting program Clay City High School head boys' basketball coach Grant McVay installed when he came to the Eels three years ago is starting to pay off.
On Tuesday, the Eels out-muscled host South Putnam en route to defeating the Eagles, 64-57.
"I like the fact that after two and one-half years in our weight program, the kids are in a situation where they don't back down from physical play," McVay said. "South Putnam is another physical team. (The Eagles) are a good basketball team."
The Eels outrebounded the Eagles, 31-20, on Tuesday including 15 offensive rebounds.
"That was huge," South Putnam coach Kyle Brewer said. "That was from the start of the game and it set the tone for second chance opportunities for them."
Clay City took advantage of 11 first-quarter rebounds early, jumping out to an 8-4 lead but the Eagles came back, outscoring the Eels, 7-1, to close the quarter knotted at 11.
South Putnam took the lead with 4:49 to go in the second period and didn't relinquish it for the rest of the half.
The Eagles jumped ahead, 27-20, after a layup by Jeff Limbach with less than two minutes to go.
But Clay City's Elliott Booe scored five consecutive points and Camrand Tucker added a free throw to pull the Eels within one, 27-26.
Booe gave the lead to Clay City with two free throws at the 7:38 mark of the third period but the Eagles held close all period.
Clay City managed to pull ahead by eight, 48-40, to close the period when Jared Defore hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
South Putnam's Josh Wood scored the first two baskets of the final period to pull the Eagles within four but the Eels stormed back ahead and held a eight-point, 56-48 lead with less than three minutes to go in regulation.
Wood and Limbach brought the Eagles back within four, 56-50, with less than two minutes to go and after two free throws from Landon Wellman, another Wood basket made the score 58-- 54.
But Clay City hit six free throws in the final 1:02 to secure the win.
For the game, the Eels were 30-of-42 from the free throw line.
"We shoot right about 70 percent from the free throw line," McVay said.
Booe led the Eels with 19 points while Matt Farmer also had 18 and nine rebounds.
"When Matt's active, and when he plays well for us, we're a difficult team to beat," McVay said.
Wood came off the bench to tally 17 points for the Eagles while Limbach had 14 also off the bench.
In junior varsity action, Clay City fell to 5-2 after suffering a 47-34 loss. Brock Dyer led the Eels with 15 points.
Clay City (varsity 9-2, junior varsity 5-2) will host Eastern at home on Friday at 6:30 p.m.