\CLAY CITY -- Close games are getting to be old hat for the Clay City Eels. On Monday night they played their fifth straight game to be decided by eight points or fewer and in the process, won their ninth game of the season, 48-41 over visiting North Daviess.
Despite coming in with just a 3-13 mark, the Cougars battled the Eels tough over the final three quarters of play, in fact, leading the Eels at times during the fourth quarter.
"Their coach (first year girls' coach Roger Carrithers) has done a good job," said Clay City coach Chris Ross. "Early in the season they struggled a bit but if you look at their schedule, their playing a lot more competitive."
The Eels came out firing in the first period with Bryleigh Schopmeyer drilling a pair of 3-pointers and scoring eight points as Clay City took a double-digit lead in the early part of the second period.
"Bryleigh (Schopmeyer) was really active defensively for us," noted Ross. "She did a good job of moving the ball on offense and getting the ball to the middle of their zone."
North Daviess however came back to get within 20-16 with lightning quick Cougar guard Marisa Baker scoring four times from the free throw line and Amanda Davis scoring a pair of baskets.
"I think foul trouble had something to do (with the Cougars comeback)," mentioned Ross. "We had two and sometimes three of our players on the bench. And a couple of them didn't play at all in the second quarter."
In the third quarter the Eels got revved up their offense, getting a jumper from Ashley Collins and a basket from Cameron Gerber to stretch their lead to 24-18. After Marisa Baker and Sarah Kennedy traded baskets, the Cougars went on a 10-3 run to take a brief 30-29 lead before Clay City reserve guard Mardi Steiner nailed a jumper heading to the fourth period.
In the final period, North Daviess got a 3-pointer from Mallory Baker to grab another lead and held a 35-32 advantage before a pair of free throws by Gerber. Then Clay City's Whitney McWilliams got warmed up.
After hitting just three of her first 11 shots from the field, McWilliams nailed a pair of 3-pointers sandwiched around a drive to the basket and a steal at halfcourt that led to a basket.
Her personal 10 point run pushed the Eels out to a 44-39 lead with 2:41 left and the Cougars were unable to catch up. "Whit(ney) has got a lot of mental toughness," said Ross. "She stepped up and took her game to the next level when it was crunchtime tonight."
After allowing Marisa Baker to get to the line eight times in the first half, the Eels held her without a shot in the pivotal fourth quarter. "Ashley Collins and Chelsee Gerber both did a good job of denying the basketball to (Baker)," commented Ross. "They did a nice job of containing her late in the game."
The win moves the Eels to 9-6 overall and 3-3 in the Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference with a trip to Sullivan on Thursday night.
North Daviess (41)
Mal.Baker 4-7 0-0 9, Mar. Baker 2-8 5-8 9, Joliff 0-5 1-4 1, McKee 7-13 2-5 16, Sommers 0-4 0-0 0, Scudder 1-1 0-0 2, Litherland 0-0 0-1 0, Davis 2-2 0-0 4. Totals: 16-40 8-18 41.
Clay City (48)
McWilliams 7-16 4-8 20, Collins 1-1 0-0 2, Ch.Gerber 0-0 0-0 0, Schopmeyer 3-5 0-0 8, Ca.Gerber 4-5 2-4 10, Kennedy 2-3 0-1 4, Steiner 1-1 0-0 2, Johnson 0-2 0-0 0, Tyler 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 19-34 6-13 48.
3-point fieldgoals -- ND 1-2 (Mal. Baker 1-1 McKee 0-1), Clay City 4-10 (Schopmeyer 2-3, McWilliams 2-7). Total Rebounds -- ND 22 (Joliff 9), Clay City 20 (Kennedy 9). Total Fouls -- ND 16, Clay City 18. Turnovers -- ND 18, Clay City 20.