Just one year later, the Eels once again have just two seniors on the team, but the rest of the supporting cast seemed to have taken those past lumps to heart.
Clay City has already surpassed last year's win total just eight games into the new season. One big reason for that improvement, scoring.
Averaging just 36 points per game during their troublesome campaign of 2002-03, the Eels were outscored by over 18 points a game by their opponents who took advantage of the Eels' offensive woes and lack of height to outrebound and outscore Clay City.
This year the Eels ability to score in traffic and transition have boosted their scoring totals to over 51 points a game, more than 15 points per game improvement. The results have been immediate.
Clay City was 1-7 last year after eight games and had lost by 12 points or more in five of those losses. This year the Eels have already won four games, sitting at .500 after eight contests and have a pair of losses by just three points and seven points.
With a lineup that is rapidly becoming a cohesive and more aggressive unit, Clay City has seen each of their starters increase their scoring averages while mixing in more youth.
After averaging 10.9 points per game (ppg.) over 17 games last year, sophomore guard Whitney McWilliams has come back stronger and with more confidence in her point guard abilities. She is averaging over 16 points per game (16.12 ppg.) thus far and has continued her aggressive defense.
McWilliams is just one of the Eels' who has improved her talents.
Another key to the Eels success is the inside combination of junior Cameron Gerber and freshman Sarah Kennedy.
Gerber struggled to be aggressive inside last year in just 15 minutes per game. She averaged under three points a game, but has shown excellent toughness in providing an inside presence for the Eels.
Gerber is pouring in 8.25 ppg. while mixing it up in the paint for rebounds. She combines with Kennedy, who gives the Eels a little extra height and allows the Eels to spread the defense out more than last year.
Kennedy has arrived on the scene this year and added nearly seven points a game for the Eels. Though she hasn't developed into a consistent threat just yet, the ability is there. With games of 12 points against Riverton Parke and 13 against Barr-Reeve, she could help give the Eels a solid inside-outside scoring combination with McWilliams.
Another area that has shown great improvement this year is the Eels' perimeter shooting.
Clay City hit just 26 shots from 3-point land last year, but have already knocked down half of that total to this point. Bryleigh Schopmeyer has developed into perhaps the Eels' most consistent outside gunner and has chipped in with over seven points per game this year. She has also developed a tougher attitude when driving to the basket and gives the Eels some extra punch.
Seniors Kasi Thatcher and Brittany Rood give the Eels some steadying leadership in the crunch time. The Eels won their first close game on Saturday afternoon with a 52-51 win over a Turkey Run squad that has played a tough schedule. With that victory, the Eels might have turned a corner in their development into a nightly threat against squads.
The Eels will be looking for revenge against rival Linton tonight who knocked them off in a three overtime thriller last year. The game is even more important since it counts towards both the SWIAC and TRC conference standings.
Clay City fans have begun to notice the squad's improvement with rising attendance each home date. With a lot riding on tonight's game, the Eels look for another nice crowd for the game which kicks off at 6 p.m. with the junior varsity game.