SWITZ CITY -- The Clay City Eels passed their first sectional test on Tuesday night with a 66-35 victory over Union (Dugger) that earned them the right to face Bloomfield who escaped with a 30-29 comeback win over Shakamak.
The Eels extended a 22-14 halftime advantage by opening the second half with an 8-0 run spurred by their defense.
Roger Harden scored to open the half for Clay City and Jared Defore capitalized on a steal in the backcourt with a layin to make the score 26-14 less than a minute into the third period. Clay Jones then tallied his first points of the game off a turnovers by the Bulldogs and Harden extended the Union deficit to 16 with a layin off a lob from the corner.
Suddenly the Eels had a 30-14 lead and Union was forced to call a timeout to regroup.
"I was pleased probably with our perseverance more than anything," commented Clay City coach Grant McVay. "(Union's) guards really executed tonight. I was pleased with our kids forcing six turnovers in the third quarter. We were really hungry to convert them into points."
The Eels did just that in the period, hitting 50 percent (eight-of-16) shots in the quarter to lead 41-24 after 24 minutes.
Daniel Page hit a 3-pointer to open the final quarter for Union, but the Eels clamped down after that and put together a 9-0 run that ended the Bulldogs hopes at a comeback.
The Eels held Union to just two-of-10 shooting in the final quarter and Clay City scored 25 points as their reserves closed out the game.
Brock Roberts added 18 points for the Eels who saw 10 players score in the game.
"In the second half I think we did a better job offensively," commented McVay. "I think that Union is certainly well coached and headed in the right direction."
The Bulldogs ended their season with a 5-17 mark overall while the Eels advanced to 16-6 and will match up with a Bloomfield squad that narrowly escaped an upset.
Trailing by four points, 27-23 with under a minute to go in their game, Rodney Hughes came up with a rebound hoop off a Corey Sparks missed 3-point attempt. The basket closed the gap to 27-25 with 59 seconds remaining.
Shakamak senior Josh Netherlain responded by driving the length of the court off an inbounds pass to score, but Hughes followed with a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left to close the gap to 29-28 in favor of Shakamak.
Despite an excellent game overall, Netherlain missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw with 16 seconds left for the Lakers and Bloomfield forward Jordan Clark rebounded and was fouled.
His two free throws gave the Cardinals a one-point lead, 30-29, with 14 seconds left and Netherlain was fouled on the next possession to get another chance at the line.
Again the senior would miss, this time both free throws with eight seconds remaining, but Clark would miss his own shot from the free throw stripe to set up a last second chance for the Lakers.
With five seconds remaining, trailing by one, a pass on a break opportunity went just long and off the fingertips of a Laker player as time expired.
The win was Bloomfield's 18th against just five losses. The Eels and Cardinals will face off on Friday night beginning at 6 p.m. before the host Wolverines take on North Central in the 7:30 p.m. contest.
Clay City (66)
Tucker 1-1 0-0 2, Jones 2-7 0-0 4, Defore 3-10 0-0 9, Harden 10-12 0-0 20, Roberts 6-12 3-4 18, Wells 0-3 0-0 0, Roeschlein 2-2 0-0 4, Dyer 0-0 0-0 0, Griffith 0-0 2-2 2, Knox 1-2 0-0 3, Thatcher 1-1 0-0 2, Johnson 0-0 2-2 2. Totals: 26-50 7-8 66.
Gambill 5-10 4-5 14, Daniel Page 1-8 0-0 3, Davidson 1-6 0-0 2, Spurlin 1-2 4-6 6, Nathan Page 2-4 1-4 5, Camden 0-0 0-0 0, Reed 2-3 0-0 5, Stockrahm 0-1 0-1 0. Totals: 12-34 9-16 35.
3-point fieldgoals -- Clay City 5-12 (Roberts 3-6, Defore 1-3, Knox 1-1, Jones 0-1, Harden 0-1), Union 2-4 (Da.Page 1-1, Reed 1-1, Gambill 0-1, Davidson 0-1). Total Rebounds -- Clay City 28 (Roeschlein 5), Union 20 (Na.Page 4). Total Fouls -- Clay City 16, Union 12. Turnovers -- Clay City 8, Union 20.