North Clay's Drake Stevenson goes up for a shot in the second quarter of Thursday's contest against Clay City. North Clay went on to an authoritative 40-26 victory.
By ANDY MCCAMMON
The North Clay eighth-grade Knights bested Clay City Thursday, improving their record to 7-0 as they dropped the Eels 40-26.
Both teams were undefeated coming into the game, but the solid fundamental play and suffocating defense of Coach Tom McCullough's North Clay squad stifled a usually potent Clay City offense. Justin White led the way for North Clay with 13 points. Clay DeWeese contributed 10 and Jonathon Bradshaw added eight for the Knights.
Clay City (5-1) got off to a strong start. Eels guard Spenser Barrett handled the ball with confidence, and early scores from forward Bill Newton and center Jacob Payne amounted to a 6-1 lead midway through the first quarter. But the Knights answered with scores from Bradshaw and DeWeese, and the latter's buzzer-beating field goal gave North Clay a 14-8 advantage heading into the second.
The Knights would never surrender the lead. Clay City struggled from the field for the remainder of the game, and a pesky North Clay defense prevented the Eels from establishing an offensive rhythm. Clay City's two most potent scoring threats, Newton and Payne, struggled for open shots as they were double- and triple-teamed by North Clay defenders.
The rest of the Eels' roster couldn't pick up the slack; Newton and Payne each finished with 13, generating all of Clay City's offense.
Clay City Coach Rodney Smith said he was aware of the challenge North Clay presented before the game even started.
"North Clay is a very good team. We knew that coming in," he said. "They did an excellent job of collapsing in on our guys in the post. And they had an inside game and an outside game. That's hard to defend."
North Clay's seventh-grade squad also defeated Clay City Thursday, notching an impressive 54-16 win and improving its record to 5-3.
The seventh-grade Eels (4-2) struggled for an answer to North Clay's offense, as the Knights amassed a 23-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Eels managed to make up some ground, but the early North Clay lead proved too much to overcome.
"We just come hard from the get-go," said Knights Coach Chris DeHart. "That's one of the things we've been working on, getting a fast start."
Sean Hauser led all scorers with 15 points, followed by Trent Lancaster with 12 and Caleb Mershon with seven. Tyler Bridgewater scored nine of Clay City's 16 points.
Next up for the North Clay seventh grade is a road trip to Woodrow Wilson on Monday at 6 p.m. while the eighth grade is at home versus Woodrow Wilson. For Clay City, they travel to Cloverdale on Monday for a 6 p.m. game.