However, despite that record and a seven game skid heading into sectionals, coach Chris Ross believes that his team has continued to work hard. "Over the season it's really just been three or four things that have hurt us. But I've been pleased with the progress that the players have made."
One of those players that has been thrust into a very important role because of injury is freshman guard Whitney McWilliams.
McWilliams opened some eyes earlier in the season by averaging double figures in three of her first four games. She still leads the team in scoring with a 10.9 average, but she's had a tough road to get there said Ross. "I'm really pleased with her progress. She's had her peaks and valleys but (she) has done a good job of listening and learning."
McWilliams was tossed into the point guard role early on and has done a solid job despite a revolving lineup and expectations to score. "Early on she had some big stat nights," commented Ross. "But teams have adjusted and certainly added her to their scouting report. She's done a great job of adjusting on the fly."
The Eels as a team have been forced to adjust to each others' tendencies sometimes game to game.
Finally Clay City seems to have stabilized their lineup with the return of Bryleigh Schopmeyer from illness.
Jenna Koehler returned several weeks ago and is nearly back to full strength and the players are getting used to each other on the court. "Obviously we've played a lot of young kids at times," said Ross. "Earlier this season we were really inexperienced with Jenna out. Having her back gives us some experience on the court and a real leader."
Clay City will need that leadership against their first round sectional opponent the Class A No. 3 ranked North Central Thunderbirds.
Clay City Eels vs. North Central Lady Birds
At White River Valley High School
Tuesday, February 12, 2003
The Thunderbirds don't play nicely with others a fact proved by the fact that they are mowing down opponents by over 12 points a game. The Eels will need court leadership to circle the wagons versus an aggressive, pressing North Central defense.
With Koehler, a senior, out of the lineup, the Eels called in the youth brigade.
A pair of sophomores, Heather Johnson and Bryleigh Schopmeyer have gotten extensive court time along with the freshman Williams. At times, the Eels also got varsity minutes for freshmen Chelsea Riggs, Kylee Knox and Kristen Tyler.
But the key to Tuesday's game will likely be the play of senior Sarah Boone and junior Brittany Rood against North Central senior Rebekah Forsythe.
The pair fouled out of the last game with Forsythe going to the line 13 times and leading the way with 28 points for the Lady Birds. "She is number one, athletic," said Ross of Forsythe. "She's also very good with the ball and is good at getting position with her body and going up strong which gets her to the line."
However, they won't be able to just concentrate on Forsythe who leads the team at 24 points a game (eighth in the state). Her backcourt counterpart, Megan Haag, is just as big a threat driving the ball or knocking down the outside jumper.
She is second on the team with about 17 points a game and is just as big a threat on the defensive side of the ball. "I think the big thing for us is stopping Haag in transition," noted Ross. "We'll have to defend her on the perimeter and limit Rebekah's (Forsythe) touches. Your not going to be able to shut them down because all of their offense runs through them."
North Central is adept at getting to the freethrow line with Haag's drives and Forsythe's moves under the basket. The Eels will have to play smart defense on the pair and make them work for their points. If Clay City can keep the T-Birds off the line they could stick around long enough to challenge.