CLAY CITY -- Facing a formerly ranked Sullivan girls basketball squad and their third basketball game in four days, Clay City could have easily rolled over for the visiting Golden Arrows. Instead, they dug in on the defensive end and narrowly missed pulling off a huge upset, falling 53-44 in a game much closer than the final score.
"We gave a really good effort tonight," commented Clay City coach Chris Ross. "We had great focus and we did some things defensively that really caused (Sullivan) problems."
That Eel's defense forced a talented Sullivan squad into just 30 percent shooting (15-of-50 FG) for the game.
However, Sullivan was able to pull off the victory with strong, physical play in the paint and by hitting just enough free throws to get the win.
The Eels trailed by just three points at halftime, 23-20, and 25-20 after Ally McKinley opened the half with a basket. But Sarah Kennedy answered for the Eels, part of her 11 point, nine rebound night, and back-to-back baskets by Cameron Gerber tied the score at 26-apiece early in the third quarter. Bryleigh Schopmeyer would then follow with a jumper at the 4:15 mark to give the Eels third first lead of the second half at 28-26.
Sullivan forward Alana Bradford would even the score once again on a drive as part of her 12-point evening to help give the Golden Arrows a 32-30 lead at the end of three quarters.
The fourth quarter would belong to McKinley who was simply too strong getting to the basket for the Eels.
McKinley, who shot just five-of-15 from the field, would get to the line 12 times, sinking nine of them for a game-high 17 points for Sullivan. "(McKinley) really hurt us," said Ross afterwards. "She's just so strong with the ball and she was able to get to the middle of our defense."
Combined with teammate Kenna Smith, who hit seven-of-eight free throws in the final quarter, the pair would score 12 of Sullivan's 21 fourth period points from the line. Overall Sullivan scored 15 of their 21 points by getting to the line on drives and rebounding fouls drawn from the Eels.
The Eels would draw ahead once again on a 3-point play from Whitney McWilliams, who had 14 points for the Eels, and last lead at 37-36 when she knocked down one-of-two free throws. However, McKinley and junior Alana Bradford would keep Sullivan out front by hitting their free throws late in the game. The Eels were unable to mount a last rally as turnovers helped fuel a 16-8 Sullivan closing run from the line.
Afterwards Ross looked at the positives in the three-game streak. "We tried to tell our kids that we're not happy with a loss. But we weren't happy with our play on Monday and Tuesday, but had a good practice on Wednesday and came out (Thursday) with focus and strength."
The Eels (6-10 overall) will continue a streak of tough games when they visit Clay County rival Northview on Tuesday evening.
Smith 3-8 9-10 15, Bradford 3-9 6-8 12, Dugan 0-3 0-0 0, McKinley 5-15 7-12 17, Unger 3-6 0-2 6, LeDune 1-3 0-0 2, Turner 0-6 0-0 0, Gadberry 0-0 1-2 1, Doty 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-50 23-34 53.
Clay City (44)
McWilliams 5-10 3-6 14, B.Rood 2-5 0-0 4, Gerber 3-8 2-6 8, Thatcher 1-8 1-2 3, Kennedy 5-9 1-2 11, Johnson 1-1 0-1 2, Schopmeyer 1-4 0-0 2, Tyler 0-1 0-0 0, Collins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-46 7-17 44.
3-point fieldgoals -- Sullivan 0-7 (Turner 0-4, Smith 0-1, McKinley 0-2), Clay City 1-2 (McWilliams 1-1, Schopmeyer 0-1). Total Rebounds -- Sullivan 44 (Bradford 8, McKinley 8), Clay City 40 (Kennedy 9, Thatcher 6). Total Fouls -- Sullivan 20, Clay City 24. Fouled out -- Sullivan (Bradford, Dugan), Clay City (Thatcher). Turnovers -- Sullivan 12, Clay City 20.