CLAY CITY -- At this point in the season the Clay City Eels are used to playing with a short bench this season after two ACL injuries, a sprained ankle and a case of mononucleosis have brought the Eels down to just a handful of healthy players.
On Thursday night they only needed six players to down the North Central Thunderbirds by a 60-56 count.
Senior Josey Vansickle scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half and T.L. Roeschlein added seven of his 10 in the fourth quarter to propel the Eels to victory.
The Eels led North Central 24-22 at halftime, but opened the second half on an 7-0 run to take a 31-22 advantage just 2:20 into the third quarter. But the Thunderbirds put together a 10-2 run of their own as Matt Austin hit a pair of 3-pointers and Jordan Spencer hit a pair of jumpers.
From there the two teams battled back and forth for the rest of the period as Vansickle and the Eels seemed to answer each score by the Thunderbirds.
"We went some long stretches in the second and third quarters where we held them scoreless," commented coach Grant McVay. "In the third quarter we held them at least two minutes without a score and they still scored 20 points in the quarter. But to our kids credit, they did answer their runs. We had good balance tonight."
The Thunderbirds would take a one point lead into the final quarter, 42-41, but the Eels buckled down on the defensive end for the first four minutes of the period and put together a 9-2 run.
Dustin Griffith, in his first game back since the Greene County Tourney in December, opened the period with a 3-pointer as part of his career-high 13 point night. After a Spencer jumper for North Central, Griffith hit one-of-two free throws and Roeschlein scored a bucket before a Vansickle 3-pointer put the Eels ahead 50-44 with 4:30 left in the game.
"We discussed after the game the positives of being difficult to guard. It opens it up for other people," mentioned McVay.
North Central got a Matt Woodard basket before Roeschlein drove the baseline for an answering score which was the theme of the night for Clay City. "TL (Roeschlein) has played much more consistently over the last month," said McVay. "He's played more within himself and his energy level hasn't decreased. He sets the tone for us."
Each Thunderbird rally got a response from the Eels.
A Travis Metheny score got a Vansickle basket with 3:23 left and a Spencer jumper preceded a pair of free throws from Roeschlein. Two more free throws from Garrett Thatcher moved the lead to nine points, 58-49, with 1:30 left and the Eels hit just enough from the charity stripe to get the victory.
The Eels advanced to 8-10 overall and 3-0 in the Tri-River Conference and will take to the road versus Linton on Tuesday evening.
In junior varsity action, Clay City held North Central scoreless in overtime action as the Eels picked up a 39-34 victory.
Wayne Jeffers scored 13 points and Fred Modesitt added 11 to go with Jason Shouse's eight.
North Central (56)
Austin 3-6 0-0 9, Spencer 8-14 0-0 17, Gilmore 2-9 0-0 5, Samm 1-6 0-0 2, Woodard 5-6 4-5 14, Drake 2-3 1-1 5, Metheny 1-3 2-3 4, Nicklass 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 22-48 7-9 56.
Clay City (60)
Roeschlein 3-6 4-8 10, Knox 1-3 0-0 3, Vansickle 8-18 1-3 18, Dyer 2-5 1-1 5, Thatcher 4-13 3-4 11, Griffith 4-6 4-7 13. Totals: 22-52 13-23 60.
3-point fieldgoals -- North Central 5-15 (Gilmore 1-5, Austin 3-5, Spencer 1-4, Drake 0-1), Clay City 3-11 (Vansickle 1-6, Griffith 1-1, Knox 1-2, Dyer 0-2). Total Rebounds -- North Central 27 (Woodard 6), Clay City 36 (Roeschlein 9, Griffith 6, Thatcher 6). Total Fouls -- North Central 15, Clay City 12. Fouled out -- North Central (Spencer). Turnovers -- Clay City 11, North Central 13.