CLAY CITY -- The Clay City Eels tuned up for sectional play beginning next Friday with one of their best games of the season against Class 2A No. 3 unbeaten South Putnam on Tuesday night.
Though the game ended in defeat for the gutsy Eels, the Eagles certainly got their fill from the scrappy Clay City squad on Senior Night. In the end, South Putnam prevailed 57-45 in a game that was much closer than the final score of 57-45.
The Eels were coached by Assistant Varsity Coach Heather Keller with both Head Coach Chris Ross and JV Coach Keith Jones attending to personal issues. "For the girls to make the adjustments they have this week is incredible," commented Keller. "Both the JV and varsity played awesome tonight."
In the early moments of the game the Eagles looked every bit the part of their lofty ranking, forcing eight first period turnovers and running out to a 15-4 first quarter lead. Talented freshman guard Meghan Canary scored five early points and six-foot Jamie Foy scored four quick points inside. The Eagles pressured the Eels in man-to-man defense in the halfcourt with six-foot, three year starter Jessica Canary at the point guard position and senior Ashlee Coffin stuck to Clay City's leading-scorer, Whitney McWilliams like glue.
But in the second quarter the Eels began to adjust to the pressure.
"Our main goal was to push (the ball) down the floor. The more we can run it the better," mentioned Keller. "Whitney (McWilliams) does a great job of getting the ball up the floor. Our transition player is much better when we hustle down the court."
Meghan Canary picked up her second foul late in the first quarter and sat for the rest of the half and Foy also got her second as well. The Eels began to get untracked in the second period as Bryleigh Schopmeyer hit for five points in the period and McWilliams scored seven in the quarter as Clay City narrowed the halftime gap to 26-18.
Fittingly, in the third period, it was one of the Eels' seniors, Cameron Gerber, stepped to the forefront in the third quarter and scored nine of her 11 points in the period. Working the baseline and in the paint, Gerber scored seven of the Eels final 11 points in the quarter as the Eagles and Eels traded blows. The Eels scored the final points of the quarter when Gerber drilled a 3-pointer to get within 46-37.
"Our girls do a really good job of chipping away at a team and before they know it we're back in it," commented Keller.
The Eels did just that in the fourth quarter as McWilliams scored on a drive to the hoop and Gerber stayed hot with another score underneath to get the Eels within 46-41 with 5:08 left in the game. Clay City seemed poised to reach the pinnacle of the game.
But the Eagles responded.
Foy came back to the post for a score and after Gerber missed a shot for the Eels at the other end, Beth Legan raised the bar to 50-41. The Eels turned the ball over at the other end and after Meghan Canary missed a 3-pointer with 3:00 left, the Eels missed a pair of shots around a Foy miss. The Eels had one more shot with time winding down as Sarah Kennedy hit two free throws to get Clay City within 50-43 with 1:18 left.
But South Putnam answered like an unbeaten as Jessica Canary was fouled three times in the last minute and hit all six of her free throws and Clay City was unable to get any closer.
"I'm very happy with this game headed into the sectional," noted Keller. "We got a great draw with a bye into Friday. These girls proved what they are capable of doing to themselves tonight," said Keller.
Balanced scoring was the key to the Eagles victory as four of five starters scored in double figures and the other, Collins, tallied eight. For the Eels, McWilliams scored 17 and Gerber added 11 with Schopmeyer tallied nine.
Clay City (9-10 overall) will finish up the regular season on Thursday with a road game versus North Daviess at 6 p.m.
In the junior varsity game the Eels advanced to 13-5 overall with a 31-14 victory over the Eagles.
Mardi Steiner led the way with nine points along with Angie Camp and Chelsea Riggs added seven.
South Putnam (57)
Coffin 2-8 4-4 8, M.Canary 3-6 3-3 11, J.Canary 4-10 6-6 14, Foy 5-9 0-0 10, Legan 4-6 2-4 10, Robinson 1-3 1-2 3, Knight 0-0 0-0 0, Booe 0-0 0-0 0, Knight 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-42 17-21 57.
Clay City (45)
McWilliams 7-16 3-5 17, Rood 0-1 0-0 0, Johnson 1-1 0-0 2, Schopmeyer 4-9 0-0 9, Ca.Gerber 5-12 0-2 11, Kennedy 1-4 2-2 4, Tyler 0-1 2-2 2, Collins 0-1 0-0 0, Ch.Gerber 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-45 7-11 45.
3-point fieldgoals -- S.Putnam 2-4 (M.Canary 2-3, Robinson 0-1), Clay City 2-10 (Gerber 1-1, Schopmeyer 1-4, McWilliams 0-5). Total Rebounds -- S.Putnam 28 (J.Canary 6, Legan 5, Coffin 5), Clay City 27 (Gerber 10). Total Fouls -- S.Putnam 9, Clay City 15. Turnovers -- S.Putnam 9, Clay City 17.