Left: Clay City's Wayne Jeffers goes up over Cameron Fagg for two points in Friday's loss to the Vikings.
Right: Clay City's Garrett Thatcher (left) draws more contact than he would have liked from the Vikings' Morgan Coombs.
WEST TERRE HAUTE -- The way things began for Clay City in Friday's road trip to West Vigo set an ominous tone that lived up to its billing for the Eels.
Clay City turned the ball over nine times in the opening period and West Vigo took advantage to get out to a 20-14 lead through the first eight minutes.
However, it was the first half of the third quarter that really doomed Clay City.
West Vigo seemingly couldn't miss from the floor, particularly with Cameron Fagg and Gilberto Neto inserted into lineup to begin the second half.
The pair were instrumental in pushing the tempo and putting the Eels on their heels in the third quarter, combining for 21 of the Vikings 33 points in the quarter to take a 76-66 victory.
Afterwards, Clay City head coach Grant McVay gave the Vikings credit for their shooting, but was disappointed in his team's defensive attitude.
"Certainly (West Vigo) hit some shots. But when you allow a team to play with confidence. . .It's been a question of toughness and guts all season for this team. When things go well, we play harder and play with confidence, but when they don't. . ."
His comments certainly held true in this game as Clay City hung with the Vikings during the first half, getting a balanced scoring effort from their players. Stephen Johnson scored five points with Garrett Thatcher adding three and Dustin Griffith tallying four.
Leading 28-23 at the break, West Vigo came out the aggressor in the second half.
Cogan Keith started the half with a leaner in the lane and after a free throw apiece from the Vikings' Drew Aff and Clay City's Josey Vansickle and Johnson, Fagg went to work for West Vigo.
He began to warm up with his first 3-pointer, but the Eels got a basket from Thatcher on a putback and a hoop from Johnson around a Neto basket that made the score 36-29.
From there, the Vikings too control.
Aff hit a jumper for the Vikings that woke the crowd and Fagg followed with his second 3-pointer to make the score 41-29. The Eels followed with a sloppy turnover on a cross court pass and Fagg knocked down a jumper to push the lead to 43-29.
Joel Farmer gave the Eels a brief respite with a basket, but Morgan Coombs answered back with a three-point play for West Vigo that gave the Vikings a 46-31 advantage and Aff capped a 12-2 run with a jumper and a 48-31 lead.
Eventually the lead would grow to as much as 22 points early midway through the fourth quarter before the Eels got untracked.
Down 69-47 after Keith sank one-of-two free throws, Clay City got baskets from Thatcher and Johnson before Logan Bettenbrock drilled a 3-pointer to get the Eels back to 69-54 late in the game.
After a free throw from Fagg, who had a game-high 23 points, 15 in the third period, the Eels' Fred Modesitt almost single-handedly got the Eels back in the game.
He would drill three straight 3-pointer from the corner around a couple of free throws for the Vikings and the Eels were within 72-63 with a minute remaining.
But the run proved to be the last gasp as West Vigo finished the game with a few free throws.
McVay believes the key for his team is in maintaining the style of play that they showed in the final moments.
"There aren't a whole lot of pretty things to say (after this game). When this group plays with toughness, there is now question we can play with anyone," McVay noted. "I was pleased with (the late) segment, because we were attacking them under control and that leads to better shots."
The Eels fall to 8-11 overall and lost their third straight game, however, McVay believes his charges can rally.
"At times, against an athletic group, we played well, but at this level 'at times' isn't good enough, but by no means does that mean I don't think we can do that. We just need to do it for four quarters and we can play with anyone in the tourney."
The Eels will travel to Turkey Run this evening for a 6:30 p.m. junior varsity tipoff.
In the junior varsity contest, Clay City got 15 points from Will Kennedy and another 14 from Jordan Defore in beating the Vikings 50-42 to improve to 15-4 this season.
Braxton Griffith contributed nine for the Eels in the win.
West Vigo 76, Clay City 66
At West Vigo
Clay City (66)
Griffith 4-8 0-0 8, Vansickle 0-9 3-5 5, Johnson 5-10 1-3 13, Farmer 1-2 0-2 2, Thatcher 3-4 3-4 9, Schroer 2-2 2-2 6, Bettenbrock 2-5 3-5 8, Kennedy 0-0 2-2 2, Moon 0-1 2-2 2, Jeffers 1-4 0-0 2, Modesitt 3-3 0-2 9, Defore 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 23-48 17-29 66.
West Vigo (76)
Coombs 2-5 1-1 5, Keith 3-6 4-9 11, Aff 7-12 1-5 15, Chestnut 3-7 2-4 8, Beal 1-1 0-0 2, Fagg 7-9 7-11 23, Neto 5-7 0-2 10, Heyen 1-1 0-0 2, Deighton 0-1 0-0 0, Brown 0-3 0-0 0. Totals: 29-52 13-27 76.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 6-18 (Modesitt 3-3, Bettenbrock 1-3, Johnson 2-5, Vansickle 0-6, Jeffers 0-1), WV 3-6 (Fagg 2-3, Keith 1-2, Coombs 0-1). Total Rebounds -- CC 29 (Thatcher 6), WV 32 (Chestnut 4, Fagg 4). Total Fouls -- CC 21, WV 25. Turnovers -- CC 19, WV 14.