Top photo: Stephen Johnson (#42) scores two of his 10 points for Clay City in a 54-47 victory over visiting South Putnam on Tuesday night.
Bottom photo: Jordan Defore (#40) twists through the lane on his way to six points for Clay City's junior varsity squad.
CLAY CITY -- Few teams translate defense to victories like the Clay City Eels have under the Grant McVay regime over the past six years.
After struggling to limit their opposition's offensive production during the Greene County Tourney, the Eels got back to what they need to do to win against South Putnam on Tuesday night.
Clay City limited South Putnam's inside game and the Eels hustled, scrapped and defended their way to a 54-47 victory over the Eagles.
"The kids took ownership of their fate (tonight)," commented McVay. "They played assertively and did the kind of things they had to do to win the game. We have to defend and we have to take care of the ball to win."
The Eels did both against the Eagles.
Clay City turned the ball over just four times in the second half, and just 10 times all game and held South Putnam's Matt Hicks to just four shots and six points in the game just a few days after a 38-point effort against Eminence.
"We did a good job of competing with (Hicks) out there," commented McVay. "That was a difference maker right there."
Trailing 26-23 at halftime, the Eels put together a 6-0 run to start the second half as Garrett Thatcher hit two free throws and Josey Vansickle followed with a basket inside and a followup hoop for a Clay City 29-26 lead.
Hicks answered with his final basket of the game, but the Eels took control with a 3-pointer from Dustin Griffith and another by Stephen Johnson for seven point advantage.
Clay City was clutch at the free throw line all night, knocking down 14-of-16 in the game and Griffith scored a pair before a Drew Christy jumper for the Eagles. Vansickle drained his only 3-pointer of the game for the Eels to give Clay City their largest lead at 40-32, but Greg Chestnut ended the quarter with a 3-pointer to get the Eagles within 40-35 heading to the final quarter.
Christy would lead his own personal fourth quarter attack on the Eels by opening the period with a 3-pointer to get the Eagles within 40-38 and then tie the score with a basket inside.
From there however, the Eels took control of the game with a basket from Thatcher, part of his 14 point, nine rebound night, and then began to milk the clock by controlling the ball.
Vansickle hit another pair of free throws for the Eels with 4:25 left and the Eagles lost the ball out of bounds to turn the ball over. Thatcher followed with a basket on a pass from Vansickle and the Eels were fully in control at 46-40.
The Eels, possessing the ball with determination, committed just one turnover in the fourth quarter and though South Putnam hit five fieldgoals in the final period, Clay City drilled 10-of-12 free throws down the stretch.
Dustin Griffith hit five-of-six from the line in the period as part of a 12 point night and Vansickle hit all four of his free throws in the fourth quarter.
The Eels put four players in double figures including Johnson's 10 points and 15 from Vansickle.
The victory advances the Eels to 6-3 on the season with a road trip to Eastern (Greene) on Friday night for a SWIAC Conference matchup.
In the junior varsity game, the Eels held off a late challenge from South Putnam to earn a 46-36 victory.
The Eagles closed a 29-9 halftime deficit to four points late in the game, but Tyler Moon and Jordan Defore each hit key free throws down the stretch in the victory.
Will Kennedy led the 6-0 JV squad with 11 points and Fred Modesitt hit three from long range for the Eels. Defore added six along with Kevin Cook.
Clay City 54, Clay City 47
At Clay City
South Putnam (47)
Christy 6-11 1-2 15, Anderson 3-6 0-0 8, Chestnut 5-17 0-0 14, Tomasino 1-2 0-0 2, Hicks 3-4 0-0 6, Rhine 1-2 0-0 2, McKinney 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 19-44 1-2 47.
Clay City (54)
Griffith 2-2 7-8 12, Vansickle 5-17 4-4 15, Farmer 1-2 0-0 2, Johnson 4-5 0-0 10, Thatcher 6-8 2-2 14, Bettenbrock 0-2 0-0 0, Jeffers 0-0 1-2 1, Schroer 0-0 0-0 0, Shouse 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-36 14-16 54.
3-point fieldgoals -- SP 7-20 (Chestnut 3-8, Anderson 2-5, Christy 2-6, Rhine 0-1), CC 4-9 (Vansickle 1-3, Johnson 2-3, Griffith 1-1, Bettenbrock 0-2). Total Rebounds -- SP 17 (Tomasino 5), CC 23 (Thatcher 9). Total Fouls -- SP 19, CC 10. Fouled out -- SP (Hicks). Turnovers -- SP 8, CC 10.