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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Eels battle WRV for finals berth

Friday, January 9, 2004

Jared Defore led the Eels with 20 points in Wednesday's win.

The stage is set and on Friday night the players will be ready for what promises to be another sterling edition of Greene County vs. Clay County basketball.

With victories in their opening games, the Clay City Eels and White River Valley Wolverines will take the court with another berth in the Greene County Tournament finals at stake.

If this year's edition is anything like last year's matchup, fans will certainly be in for a treat.

In last year's semifinals, the Wolverines were able to erase an 11 point deficit in the fourth quarter to send the contest to overtime. However, after a scoreless first overtime, Clay City's Jared Defore knocked in a 3-pointer as part of a 16 point game and Roger Harden scored to send the Eels to a 53-50 double-overtime victory.

WRV star A.J. Graves rang up 19 points in that game and will certainly be the catalyst in this year's tournament.

The Eels will get the Butler University-bound Graves on a recent hot shooting streak.

In the opening game of the tournament versus Shakamak, Graves hit all nine of his first half shots on the way to a 31 point performance on 14-of-19 shooting. That comes on the heels of a ridiculous 18-of-25 shooting, 45 point night against another Clay County rival, Northview, in the Hall of Fame Classic just two games ago.

"(A.J.) Graves is perhaps the best player I've seen since I've been here at Clay City," commented Clay City head coach Grant McVay. "(WRV's) understanding of how to play together is outstanding. That is what makes them so hard to beat."

The Eels have had ample time to prepare for the Greene County Tournament recently and the results have been positive over the past two years.

Clay City won last year's tournament, taking the title for the first time in 10 years with wins over Vincennes Rivet, WRV and Eastern Greene in the title game.

With nearly three weeks between their victory on the road over previously unbeaten Vincennes Rivet on Dec. 19 and their tournament opening win over Linton on Wednesday, the Eels had plenty of time to practice according to McVay.

"(With the break) we get the opportunity to return to fundamentals and work on team stuff," noted McVay. "The kids don't have school so they can be really focused at practice."

That results of that focus were apparent against Linton as the Eels dominated the Miners on the boards 34-21 and were by far the most physical and aggressive team on both ends of the court. Something that will have to carry over versus the versatile Wolverines.

With a potent inside-outside scoring ability, the Eels will have to keep their court balance on the defensive end versus White River Valley.

The single-A top-ranked Wolverines have several players capable of double-figure scoring and are aggressive, risk-takers on the defensive end.

"You can't simulate what (WRV) does in the passing lanes at practice," said McVay. The Wolverines are quick and aggressive, especially Graves who has free reign to lunge for any opponent's pass in order to create a turnover and thus a breakaway.

The Eels will counter with a physical front court in Harden and Camrand Tucker along with Defore and Brock Roberts who have long-range ability. Defore poured in 20 points in the opening game while Harden had a double-double and Tucker chipped in eight points and eight boards.

One thing is certain, the Eels and Wolverines know what is at stake in this game which should heighten the atmosphere just a little more in Switz City. With the last three games over two years between the two taking at least one extra session, odds seem good that the fans will get their money's worth.

Vincennes Rivet and Eastern Greene will tipoff at 6 p.m. with WRV and Clay City facing off at 7:30 p.m.

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