To pick up a victory in Friday's semifinal matchup with Union in the Clay City Sectional, the host Eels are going to have to put a stop to the Bulldog's fondness for parties in the paint.
Union dominated play in the interior during a 52-45 victory over the Eels on Dec. 20 in game in which Kelsie Manual and Stacey Secrest combined for 26 rebounds and Manual went to the free throw line 20 times by herself.
Clay City got to the line just six times compared to 36 for the Bulldogs and were outrebounded comfortably by Union, who despite shooting just 25 percent (14-of-55) from the field, still held on for the victory.
"(Union) got to the offensive boards and we didn't do a good job of rebounding," Clay City coach Chris Ross said after the earlier loss. "They got to the line and hit their free throws."
Union got to the free throw line 17 times in the fourth quarter alone as Clay City tried to narrow their deficit, but Secrest was just too much, tallying 22 to lead the Bulldogs.
Clay City got 17 from sophomore forward Sarah Kennedy and 11 from Whitney McWilliams but the Eels couldn't get over the hump.
In their sectional contest, the Eels will need to stop Union's penetration in the paint and need to crash the boards to limit second chance opportunities for the Bulldogs.
McWilliams averages over 17 points per game and will need to get help from seniors Cameron Gerber and Bryleigh Schopmeyer who each average nearly almost double digits in scoring. What the Eels are lacking however is a determined rebounder who is consistently hammering the boards.
Clay City has no single player who averages more than four rebounds per game and will need significant efforts as a team to limit the bigger Bulldogs on the interior. If the Eels can keep Union from 'bulldogging' them in the paint, Clay City has a good chance of moving to the sectional finals.
The Clay City Sectional is wide open this year with no clear cut dominant team. Bloomfield has 14 wins this season and would have to be the favorite, with wins over all the sectional teams, but the Eels fell by just six to the Cardinals.
The Eels come into sectional play on a four-game losing streak but have prepared for postseason action with a tough schedule to cap their 2004-05 slate. Over the past four games the Eels' opponents have a combined 63-18 mark, including Class 2A, third-ranked South Putnam, 16-4 Sullivan (3A) and a 4A opponent in Northview and 2A's Eastern (Greene).
Sectional action opens on Tuesday night with Bloomfield squaring off with Shakamak and North Central facing White River Valley. On Friday, the Tuesday winners will play followed by Union and the host Eels.