Top: Stephen Johnson goes up for two of his 18 points in Wednesday's win over South Vermillion.
Josie Vansickle (#30) drives the ball in Wednesday's win.
CLINTON -- The 2005-06 boys basketball season kicked off in grand style on Wednesday night as Clay City and South Vermillion's tussle went to overtime before the Eels carried away a 67-61 come-from-behind victory.
The contest had no shortage of clutch plays and players on both benches with Clay City making the key shots down the stretch.
"This was a good game for us to step up as a new varsity team," commented Clay City coach Grant McVay.
The Eels really got going in the second half after trailing by eight points at halftime.
Josie Vansickle, Stephen Johnson and Garrett Thatcher all came to the forefront past the midway point combining for 37 points after halftime.
Clay City made their move heading to the third quarter buzzer as Vansickle hit a 3-pointer to get within 41-37 and then followed that up by drilling another in front of his own bench as time expired.
From there, the Eels had an answer for every run that the Wildcats tried to make.
South Vermillion opened a 47-42 lead early in the final quarter on a jumper and two free throws by Mitch Fisher. But the Eels came right back on a drive by Thatcher and Stephen Johnson drove to the basket for a hoop and foul to knot the score at 47-apiece with 4:06 remaining.
Senior forward Alex Walsh knocked down one of his four 3-pointers to answer the rally and put the Wildcats ahead 52-49. Both teams would respond with a couple of turnovers as the game hung in the balance, but Johnson came back in transition and drained a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to tie the score again with 1:10 left.
"The last thing I said to Stephen before the game was that 'you're a gamer'," said McVay. "He has to make sure he's competing every night whether or not he's scoring or not. But he's the kind of kid who's not going to back down late in the game."
The Eels would get the ball back with under a minute left but were called for an offensive foul while playing for the final shot. The change of possession gave the ball back to the Wildcats with 28 seconds remaining but Cole Milam's shot rimmed out at the buzzer.
In overtime, the Eels opened with a big play as Vansickle scored and was fouled. He would hit the free throw to put the Eels ahead 55-52 and the Eels would use the momentum to move out to a seven point lead on baskets by Thatcher and two free throws from Cole Schroer.
The Wildcats weren't finished though.
Milam dropped in a hoop and after an Eels' turnover, Walsh nailed a key 3-pointer to bring the Wildcat fans to their feet with 1:14 left and South Vermillion trailing just 61-59.
The Eels were up to the task of finishing off the game though as Thatcher hit a baseline jumper before a basket by Fisher and an Eels' timeout with :31.7 seconds left.
Clay City would hit their free throws down the stretch as Dustin Griffith hit all four of his free throws in the last 29 seconds to pick up the victory.
"That's just a product of being immersed in the game," commented McVay on his team's free throw focus down the stretch. "When you're focused on the game, you want to be (at the free throw line) in late-game situations. The credit goes to the kids tonight."
Clay City got balanced scoring from their squad as four different players scored nine or more points with Thatcher leading the way with 20 points.
Up next for the Eels is their Dec. 2 home opener with Union beginning at 6:30 p.m. with the JV game.
The junior varsity Eels put together a dominant effort versus an outmatched South Vermillion JV squad, taking a 51-22 win.
Kyler Rhodes led the team with 13 points with Will Kennedy adding 11. Both Braxton Griffith and Fred Modesitt each had eight points.
Clay City 67, S.Vermillion 61 OT
Clay City (67)
Griffith 2-5 4-4 9, Vansickle 7-12 1-1 18, Farmer 0-0 0-0 0, Johnson 6-9 3-4 18, Thatcher 9-15 2-2 20, Schroer 0-1 2-2 2, Shouse 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 23-46 12-13 67.
Milam 7-17 1-2 17, Walsh 6-8 0-0 16, Walker 6-8 1-2 13, Dunham 1-8 0-2 2, Fischer 5-10 3-6 13, Montecillo 0-0 0-0 0, Decker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 25-51 5-12 61.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 7-14 (Johnson 3-4, Vansickle 3-6, Griffith 1-3, Thatcher 0-1), SV 6-11 (Walsh 4-5, Milam 2-6). Total Rebounds -- CC 25 (Thatcher, Farmer, Vansickle with five), SV 23 (Fisher 7). Total Fouls -- CC 17, SV 15. Fouled out -- SV (Milam). Turnovers -- CC 19, SV 14.