Trent Lancaster prepares to shoot over and Otter Creek defender.
The North Clay seventh grade Knights squandered an early lead on their way to a 39-32 loss to Otter Creek Monday night.
The Otters steadily picked up steam after a rocky first quarter, and their oppressive defense created enough turnovers to prevent the Knights from sustaining a late rally. Jordan Van Horn led the way for North Clay with 15 points and a solid rebounding performance, followed by Zac Niehaus and Trent Lancaster with five points each.
While the Otters struggled to find an offensive rhythm early in the game, North Clay charged out of the gate. The Knights led by a score of 12-3 late in the first quarter, as Otter Creek groped for an answer to Van Horn's imposing presence in the post. But Otter Daniel Gabbard knocked down his second 3-pointer in the final minute, and a steal on the next possession converted at the other end by Justin Gant shaved the lead to four by the end of the first.
Gant opened the second with a quick three, cutting the North Clay lead to one. Van Horn grabbed an offensive rebound and dropped in a short jumper to push the Knights' lead to 14-11, but the Otters vaulted into the lead with back-to-back scores off two consecutive steals by Gant and Brian Webster. Otter Creek outscored North Clay 11-4 in the second, establishing a 19-16 lead at the halfway point.
The Otters extended their advantage in the third and fourth quarters, increasing their lead to eight by the end of the third. Caleb Mershon hit each of two free throws to narrow the lead to four with 2:13 to play, but that was as close as North Clay would get. The late rally was squelched by key blocked shots from Webster and Gant, and the Otters cruised to a seven-point, 39-32 victory. Gabbard, Gant and Logan Shipley combined for 32 of Otter Creek's 39 total points.
North Clay's seventh-grade B-team fared better against Otter Creek's second team, notching a 29-24 victory. Sean Hauser led the way for the Knights with 11 points, followed by Hunter Robertson with six. Seth Whitaker and Brad Smith each added four to North Clay's total.
Up next for North Clay will be a seventh and eighth grade doubleheader on Thursday evening with rival Clay City beginning at 6 p.m.