South Vermillion led the Eels 22-19 early in the third quarter of Wednesday's pre-holiday tipoff in boys' basketball when the foul occurred.
Trailing a breakaway after a Clay City steal, Will Kennedy was shoved hard to the floor by the Wildcats' Ryan Hoggatt.
Officials called the intentional foul and Kennedy knocked down both free throws that kicked off a 12-4 run to end the quarter.
The Eels wouldn't look back from there on the way to a season-opening 45-33 victory over the Wildcats.
Clay City struggled to find a rhythm during the early going, turning the ball over six times in the first period and eventually trailed 18-14 at the break.
"I thought that 75-80 percent of us not getting going can be credited to what South Vermillion was doing on both ends (of the court)," said Clay City coach Grant McVay. "We had to settle down."
McVay pointed to his team being a little bit too tuned up for the opener.
"Being a non-football school, the kids have all these months to look towards basketball," said McVay. "We came out a little too jacked up. But I told the kids at halftime that we've got 16 minutes left, lets be disciplined and execute."
The halfitme break seemed to loosen the Eels up and the squad got rolling soon after the break.
Dustin Griffith knocked down a 3-pointer to open the scoring and Kyler Rhodes got the Eels within 22-19 before the aforementioned intentional foul.
Kennedy would lead the charge by scoring 10 of his game-high 18 points during a run that left the Eels suddenly leading 31-26 after the junior's three-point play.
After attempting just 14 total shots in the first half, the Eels took 16 in the third quarter alone when they more than doubled their point total with a 17 point outburst.
Clay City junior Jordan Defore sparked the Eels with a couple of rebounds to keep plays alive as part of his team-high six rebounds.
"Jordan had just one bucket in the third quarter, but him filling the high post forced the defense to guard that and he got some offensive rebounds," McVay said.
South Vermillion kept the game close during the early stages of the final quarter, getting a drive from Andy Walsh and a free throw from Logan Laswell sandwiched around single free throws from Kennedy and Jordan Defore.
Leading 33-29, the Eels started to pull away as Griffith sank two free throws, hit a layin and got a putback off his own rebound to push the lead to double-digits, 39-29.
From there, the Eels cruised to their season opening victory with a balanced scoring attack.
Griffth added 11 points followed by seven from Kyler Rhodes and five from Kevin Cook.
The South Vermillion JV team won 35-23 despite 16 points from the Eels' Tyler Bridgewater.
The Eels will host Union on Friday, Nov. 30 at 6:30 p.m.
Clay City 45, S.Vermillion 33
Clay City (45)
Griffith 3-7 2-2 11, Cook 2-3 1-1 5, Kennedy 6-15 6-9 18, Rhodes 3-7 1-2 7, Defore 1-4 1-2 3, Seymour 0-0 0-0 0, Heffner 0-1 0-0 0, Higgens 0-2 1-2 1, G.Payne 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-35 12-18 45.
Walsh 6-9 0-0 12, Byram 0-3 2-2 2, Hoggatt 0-0 0-0 0, Mumaw 4-16 3-6 12, Harpenau 0-2 1-4 1, McGaha 0-0 0-0 0, Laswell 1-4 4-6 6, Peelman 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 11-35 10-18 33.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 3-14 (Griffith 1-4, Kennedy 2-3, Higgins 0-2, Rhodes 0-3, Heffner 0-1, Defore 0-1), SV 1-5 (Mumaw 1-3, Peelman 0-1, Byram 0-1). Total Rebounds -- CC 28 (Defore 6, Kennedy 5), SV 15 (Walsh). Total Fouls -- CC 16, SV 14. Turnovers -- CC 17, SV 10.