Top photo: Cole Schroer floats past a WRV defender for a shot during the Eels' sectional opening win.
Bottom photo: Dustin Griffith goes up for a shot in the lane during the first half of Wednesday's win over White River Valley.
SWITZ CITY -- Facing a White River Valley team that had won only once this season, you might expect that Clay City would have cruised to an easy win in their sectional opener.
While the Eels did win, the Wolverines certainly didn't play like a one win team in the game, battling throughout before finally succumbing to an 18-6 game ending run that led the Eels to a 53-35 victory.
"You have to give coach (Sean) Vandeventer's team credit," said Clay City coach Grant McVay following the game. "Some teams that have the adversity and the injuries that they did would simply quit. But they played hard down the stretch and tonight."
Clay City got out to a 14-7 lead in the second quarter as Stephen Johnson hit all three of his 3-pointers in the first quarter, including a 60 foot heave to end the period.
The Wolverines came roaring back with his own 10-0 run to take a lead at 17-14 on baskets from Cody LaFever and Zack Sykes. The Eels would tie the score heading into halftime at 19-apiece.
The second half was where the Eels made their surge, sparked by Johnson and senior Josey Vansickle.
LaFever gave WRV a brief lead at 21-19 to open the half, but Tyler Moon scored off a pass from Garrett Thatcher underneath and Vansickle took a WRV miss the length of the court for a layin to get the Eels rolling.
After a basket from Zimmerly, Vansickle and Johnson began a familiar refrain with back-to-back jumpers and an offensive foul was whistled on WRV's Ryan Karr to give the Eels another possession and Vansickle drilled a jumper to push the lead to 29-23. Karr would give the Wolverines a brief lift with a runner in the lane, but Vansickle finished off a nine point quarter for himself with a rebound jumper and the foul. He finished the old-fashioned three point play to give the Eels a 32-25 lead.
"Defensively, in the third quarter, we came out and gave up the early score to LaFever, but for the next seven and a half minutes they scored just four points," said McVay. "Obviously we're getting stops and we had a chance to put a run together."
The Eels did just that, finishing the third quarter on a 9-2 run that gave them the momentum heading into the fourth quarter.
Johnson and Vansickle were the offensive catalysts in the quarter with Johnson scoring on a hanging jumper and a running shot in the lane. He continued his private 6-0 run with a drive along the baseline to gave the Eels a 38-29 advantage. Dustin Griffith added to the run with a steal at midcourt and a layin for a 40-29 lead.
"Dustin (Griffith) scored only two points in the game, but offensively, he was doing the things that we needed. Both he and Tyler Moon played good games for us tonight."
But it was Vansickle and Johnson who continued to pour in the points, Vansickle scored on a drive and Johnson aggressively drove the basket and hit a pair of free throws.
"Stephen (Johnson) when he plays with confidence, he's a big key for us," commented McVay. "The challenge for him is, when he's having an off night offensively, to play with the same focus."
The 12-4 run to open the fourth quarter was more than WRV could handle and they would get no closer than 14 points the remainder of the game.
Despite an off night offensively from second-leading scorer Garrett Thatcher who had just three points, the Eels got 24 points from Johnson and 18 more from Vansickle, who also had six boards.
The victory advances Clay City to 11-11 overall this season while WRV drops to 1-21. The Eels will play in the second game on Friday evening against the winner of the Shakamak/Union contest.
Capehart 0-2 0-0 0, Zimmerly 2-7 0-0 4, LaFever 5-18 2-2 12, R.Karr 4-14 3-4 11, Sykes 2-4 0-0 4, Hunter 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor 2-2 0-1 4. Totals: 15-47 5-7 35.
Clay City (53)
Griffith 1-4 0-0 2, Moon 1-2 0-0 2, Vansickle 7-14 3-3 18, Johnson 9-12 3-5 24, Thatcher 1-4 0-0 3, Schroer 0-2 2-2 2, Bettenbrock 0-0 0-0 0, Shouse 0-0 0-0 0, Modesitt 0-0 0-0 0, DeFore 0-0 0-0 0, Rhodes 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-38 10-12 53.
3-point fieldgoals -- WRV 0-6 (Zimmerly 0-2, R.Karr 0-4), CC 5-12 (Johnson 3-5, Thatcher 1-1, Vansickle 1-5, Griffith 0-1). Total Rebounds -- WRV 27 (LaFever 8), CC 27 (Vansickle 6). Total Fouls -- WRV 15, CC 7. Turnovers -- WRV 7, CC 7.