CLAY CITY -- Riverton Parke senior center Amber Porter is slowly proving herself as one of the best sixth men in the area.
Porter came off the bench on Thursday night in Clay City to score 15 points and pull down 11 rebounds, none bigger than the one she grabbed with just over three seconds left in the game.
Clay City, trailing by two points with 5.4 seconds remaining in the game, fouled Panther guard Heather Chambers to send her to the line for a one-and-one attempt. However, Chambers would miss the front end of the opportunity, but Porter came to the rescue, nabbing the rebound and getting the ball to junior Kristina Gravil who would seal the game with a free throw with one second remaining for a 48-45 Panther victory.
"I was proud of the second half we played tonight," commented Eels' head coach Chris Ross. "We got stops and put ourselves in a position to win, but we kind of let it get away."
In the first half the Eels looked as if they wouldn't have any opportunity to get a victory as Riverton Parke jumped out to a comfortable halftime lead on the strength of a 15 point second quarter.
Porter pulled down four of her rebounds in the quarter and a balanced attack that saw six different players score, helped the Panthers draw out to a 25-16 lead at the break.
Part of the Clay City problem were shooting difficulties coupled with turnovers. The Eels turned the ball over six times in the second quarter while shooting only 22 percent from the field (two-of-nine). Meanwhile the Panthers hit 50 percent (six-of-12) in taking the lead.
But whatever Ross said to his players during the half certainly got them untracked.
Clay City opened the third quarter on a 9-0 run and held the Panthers scoreless for the first 5:45 of the period. The Eels clawed back into a tie by forcing five turnovers over that span and getting five point from freshman Sarah Kennedy who would score 12 points in the game.
Junior Bryleigh Schopmeyer would knot the score at 25-all with a shot in the paint and from there the game was a barn burner.
The fourth quarter featured six lead changes and three ties as each squad battled for control.
Clay City sophomore Whitney McWilliams, held to just five points through three quarters, responded to Porter's fourth period barrage with nine points of her own, none bigger than a pair of hoops that thrust the Eels back into the lead after falling behind by five points with just under three minutes remaining.
Riverton Parke's Cassie Allen drilled a 3-pointer to break a 37-all deadlock with 3:30 left before Porter added a pair of free throws for a 42-37 advantage. But Schopmeyer would hit one-of-two free throws before McWilliams drove to the hoop, hitting a leaning jumper in the paint and followed with a 3-pointer from the corner for a 43-42 Clay City lead with 1:25 left.
The Eels' defense came through with another stop, forcing a jump ball on the ensuing possession and McWilliams received a breakaway pass on the inbounds for a layin and a 45-42 lead with under a minute left.
"We did a tremendous job of executing in the fourth quarter," commented Ross. "We executed very well and did some great things, but we just gave them an opportunity."
That opportunity came from, who else but Porter who took a pass inside, seconds after McWilliams momentum shifting layin, and hit the shot and forced the foul.
Porter calmly stepped to the line and knocked down her seventh free throw in seven attempts during the fourth quarter to tie the score at 45-apiece with 49 seconds left.
From there, Clay City couldn't catch a break as Riverton Parke got the ball back and got a driving layin off a defensive breakdown from Krystal Brenton and the Eels would turn the ball over on an inbounds attempt with 5.4 seconds remaining, forcing the Eels to foul and setting up Porter's key, final rebound.
The Eels have little time to dwell on another close loss as they host Turkey Run on Saturday morning with the varsity game set for 11:30 a.m.
"We don't have time to hang our heads," said Ross. "(Turkey Run) plays a different kind of game, they are tough and physical. We'll have to show up and play four quarters."
In the junior varsity game, Clay City hung on for a 21-18 victory despite being held scoreless in the final quarter.
The Eels got out to a 21-12 lead through three quarters on the strength of Lacey Rood's five points. But the Panthers closed within 21-18 with over a minute remaining but could get no closer.
Chelsee Gerber, Kristen Tyler and Chelsea Riggs each scored four points in the game.
Riverton Parke (48)
Gravil 3-11 1-2 7, Allen 1-5 0-0 3, Brenton 3-5 0-0 7, MacDonald 1-3 3-3 5, Cottrell 1-2 1-2 3, Chambers 1-4 0-0 3, Porter 4-9 7-7 15. Totals: 16-46 7-16 48.
Clay City (45)
McWilliams 5-11 4-4 14, Schopmeyer 3-9 2-4 8, Gerber 1-4 1-5 3, Thatcher 0-1 2-2 2, Kennedy 5-8 2-4 12, B.Rood 0-4 2-2 2, Johnson 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 15-37 13-21 45.
3-point fieldgoals -- R.Parke 3-13 (Chambers 1-3, Allen 1-3, Brenton 1-3, K.Gravil 0-4), Clay City 3-7 (McWilliams 2-4, Schopmeyer 1-3). Total Rebounds -- R.Parke 34 (Porter 11), Clay City 29 (Kennedy 8, Gerber 8). Total Fouls -- R.Parke 16, Clay City 16. Turnovers -- R.Parke 18, Clay City 16.