CLAY CITY -- Whenever the Clay City Eels take the court you can almost certainly guarantee that the game will keep you in your seat until the final buzzer sounds. Of the Eels last 14 games, only three have been decided by more than eight points. And true to form on Friday night, the Eels kept things interesting before getting a 61-56 victory. But give credit to the West Vigo Vikings, they had a few things to do with the closeness of the final score.
The game looked like it might be a blowout in the opening quarter as the Eels raced out to a 17-7 lead through one period. Much of that was due to a dominating period by Matt Farmer.
The senior center would score 13 points and grab five boards in the opening quarter on a variety of spin moves, hook shots and fall away jumpers.
His dominance would continue into the second quarter when he got a bucket to help extend the Eels' lead to 21-9 before picking up his second foul and heading for the bench.
While Farmer was a helpless bystander from the bench the Vikings took advantage on the offensive end.
After going just three-of-nine from the field in the first period, the Vikings would hit nine-of-12 in the second quarter while the Eels cooled from eight-of-13 in the opening stanza to six-of-11 in the second.
Pat Dillard, who quarterbacked the Vikings' football team to an undefeated regular season this Fall, took over the game.
The 5'9 senior guard would hit five-of-six shots from the field and two-of-three free throws for 13 points and the Vikings climbed right back into the thick of things. "To me that was a mental toughness issue," commented Clay City coach Grant McVay afterwards. "They scored on six straight possessions in the second quarter and we gave up 22 points in the quarter. When you do that you deserve to, if not get beat, struggle."
The Eels did struggle as the Vikings erased a 12-point deficit to take a brief lead at 27-25 with 1:48 left in the half before Landon Wellman knocked down a 3-pointer as the half ended with a 30-29 Eel advantage.
In the third quarter Farmer returned to the lineup and so did the Eels dominance as they ran off a 13-3 run to open the half, eight points from Farmer and five from Roger Harden who had nine in the game.
Farmer would get another 10 points in the third period on his way to a 27 point, 10 rebound game for the Eels. "When (Farmer) is making strong moves, when he makes hard cuts and gets position, there aren't many high school kids who can stop him," said McVay.
The Vikings were able to control him in the fourth period when they limited him to just a pair of free throws. But what has earned the Eels a No. 5 Class A ranking and a 15-4 record is depth and they proved that in the fourth quarter.
Tough top scorer Elliott Booe had just six points in the game and Farmer added just two fourth quarter points, the Eels got a 14-of-14 performance from the free throw line in the final period. Camrand Tucker hit all six of his attempts and Greg Long contributed another four as the Eels held off all challenges in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings were able to close to within six points early in the quarter at 49-43 after a Josh Miley drive, but the Eels responded with a pair of free throws from Long and two from Farmer to push the lead back to 10.
Miley would again get the Vikings close, capping an 8-2 run with a jumper, but Camrand Tucker and Harden would close out the game with two charity shots apiece.
"I believe in the bench kids," commented McVay. "I know they can give us positive contributions. Matt (Farmer) and Elliott (Booe) aren't the big, 20 to 25 point a game scorers, but all season our bench has stepped up for us."
The Eels will face the Turkey Run Warriors tonight at home with a 6:30 p.m. tipoff.