Clay City's Kasi Thatcher defends Linton's Clarissa Bailey in the first half of Thursday night's Eel's victory. Thatcher had six points in the win.
By CAREY FOX
CLAY CITY -- Every good basketball player struggles with their shooting touch in a game sooner or later. It's what they contribute to their team without adding to the scoring column that makes them a complete player.
On Thursday night, Clay City freshman Sarah Kennedy hit just two-of-10 from the field for the game while scoring five points, but she pulled down 12 big rebounds for the Eels. But her teammates were certainly glad she hit at least one shot on the night because it was the biggest.
Kennedy knocked down one-of-two free throws with 2.8 seconds remaining against Linton as the Eels pulled off a come-from-behind 42-41 victory.
"Those are probably the biggest free throws a freshman could hit," commented Clay City coach Chris Ross. "This is a big win for us. This is one that we should be able to build some confidence from as a program."
The Eels are getting used to playing in tight games this season.
The victory over Linton is the third consecutive game for Clay City that was decided by three or fewer points. More importantly it was their second straight win and moves the Eels over the .500 mark (5-4 overall).
Clay City trailed for the entire first half as Linton senior forward Katelin Tharp dominated inside for the first 16 minutes. Tharp rang up 11 points and pulled down five rebounds as the Miners took a 21-14 lead at the break.
The Eels struggled from the field in the first half against a sizable Miner front line (5'11, 6'0, 5'8). Clay City hit just four-of-17 from the field (24 percent) before the half.
"We really struggled offensively in the first half," said Ross. "They were doing a good job of clogging up the lane in the first half."
In the second half however, the Eels made some adjustments on both ends of the court and the difference was immediate.
Senior Kasi Thatcher opened the half with a jumper followed by a Kennedy rebound hoop that got Clay City within 21-18. Cameron Gerber than pulled down a rebound and drew the foul before hitting a pair of free throws to get within a single point. A Linton turnover on the ensuing possession gave Gerber the opportunity to knock down a jumper at the 5:10 mark to give the Eels the lead.
Just 2:50 into the second half and the Eels had knotted the score on the strength of a 7-0 run keyed by strong defense on Tharp inside and knocking down open shots that they didn't have in the first half. According to Ross, each came due to halftime adjustments.
"We talked to Cam (Cameron Gerber) at halftime about getting around 3/4 on Tharp in the post and being more physical. (Cameron) was able to get around and get a hand on some passes and we were able to force (Tharp) out on the perimeter more."
Just as important was Thatcher's offensive contributions in the quarter. "Kasi (Thatcher) hit three or four jumpers in that quarter and shot them with confidence. She was hitting those shots early in the season and tonight those shots helped us get a huge run."
Linton and the Eels see-sawed back and forth with the lead for much of the remainder of the third quarter as Tharp picked up her fourth foul with 1:26 left in the period. With her on the bench the Miners still managed to possess a 34-30 lead at the end of the third period.
In the fourth, the Eels led briefly 37-36 after Whitney McWilliams knocked down a jumper and one-of-two free throws, but the Miners came roaring back to lead 41-39 on a Corianne Warrick rebound basket.
Momentum seemed to be swinging in favor of the Miners when the Eels turned the ball over on their next possession and Casey Simmons was fouled. But Simmons missed her first free throw and Bryleigh Schopmeyer would hit two huge free throws to tie the score after picking up a very important rebound with 34 seconds left.
Schopmeyer's charity shots tied the score at 41-apiece, but on the next trip down the court, the Eels were forced to foul Tharp when she had position inside for a lay-in.
With 16 points already, and having already hit her only free throw of the game, all bets were on Tharp to make her shots. However, she would miss both shots with just 17 seconds left and the score still tied.
The Eels would make the most of their final opportunity as Thatcher missed a shot with just seconds remaining and Kennedy pulled down the most important of her 12 boards and was fouled, setting her up for the winning free throw.
"This is a huge win for these kids. They really worked hard in the offseason. They didn't want to have another season like last year," said Ross. "I think they showed a great deal of composure and maturity tonight."
The Eels (2-1 SWIAC, 1-1 TRC) will face North Central at home on Monday night with the junior varsity beginning at 6 p.m.
York 0-6 4-4 4, Warrick 3-9 0-0 6, Simmons 1-13 2-3 5, Tharp 7-16 2-5 16, Bailey 3-7 2-2 8, Ward 1-1 0-2 2, Robertson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-52, 10-16 41.
Clay City (42)
McWilliams 5-17 3-6 13, Schopmeyer 2-6 2-2 7, Gerber 3-9 2-2 8, Thatcher 3-6 0-0 6, Kennedy 2-10 1-3 5, Johnson 1-1 0-0 2, B.Rood 0-1 1-3 1. Totals: 16-50 8-13 42.
3-point fieldgoals -- Linton 1-6 (Simmons 1-1, York 0-3, Tharp 0-1, Warrick 0-1), Clay City 1-5 (Schopmeyer 1-2, McWilliams 0-3). Total Rebounds -- Linton 40 (Simmons 11, Tharp 7), Clay City 37 (Kennedy 12, Gerber 6). Total Fouls -- Linton 13, Clay City 14. Turnovers -- Linton 15, Clay City 14.
JV -- Clay City 23, Linton 15.
Clay City (6-3 overall): Chelsea Riggs 9 points, Ashley Collins 6, Chelsee Gerber 4.