For the Brazil Times
GREENCASTLE -- In a 20-game regular season, not every contest is going to be pretty. The sign of a mature team, though, is still being able to pull wins out of those sub-par performances.
The Clay City boys' basketball team showed some signs of that brand of maturity in Friday night's opening contest of South Putnam's Eagle Holiday Classic. The Eels defeated Cascade 51-48.
"We're not very mature yet in terms of our approach to the game when things don't go our way," Clay City coach Grant McVay said. "Tonight was a step forward in terms in that we tried to fight through some things. Really, we could have panicked and lost our composure."
The lack of panic was key. Although the Eels (5-2) were in the lead most of the night, near the end of each half, Cascade (2-5) made a run to take the lead. Each time the Eels, in particular Kyler Rhodes, answered the bell to retake the lead. Rhodes led the Eels with 18 points.
Having led since the beginning of the game, Clay City allowed an 8-0 run by Cascade in the second quarter and found themselves trailing 27-23. The two teams traded the lead for the rest of the half, but two Rhodes' three-pointers tied the game and then gave the Eels a 33-32 lead at the intermission.
In the second, though, the Eels had given up 19 points, much to McVay's chagrin.
"When you give up 19 points in a quarter, you're lucky to turn around and get the win," he said.
In the third, the Eels managed just nine points while turning the ball over six times. Fortunately, their defense was working very well, as the Cadets scored just three points in the period.
The Cadets had another run in them, though, as they opened the fourth with a 9-0 run, taking a 44-42 lead.
When Cascade built the lead to 48-44, Rhodes stepped up again, scoring his team's next five points to retake the lead with under a minute to play.
"You have to tip your cap to Kyler Rhodes. I don't say this very often, but he was not going to let us lose," McVay said.
Two Jordan Defore free throws would close the game out at 51-48.
"We did fight. That's one thing I'll give them. They definitely fought," the coach said. "Cascade's much more athletic than we are. They fly around and always put a lot of pressure on you. I thought we did a little bit better job of handling the pressure that they put on us late in the game, than maybe we had earlier."
Overall, McVay said his team has some things to work on. However, he's happy to be moving on to the championship game while working on the issues.
"There are some ugly things, but at the same time, we'd rather deal with those things and move on to play in the championship game tomorrow than to deal with those things and play in the consolation game," McVay concluded.
Clay City will face the host Eagles (1-6) at 7:30 p.m. in tonight's championship game of the Eagle Holiday Classic. The Eagles picked up their first win of the season in a 55-50 win over North Vermillion in Friday's second game.
At South Putnam
Eagle Holiday Classic first round
Spencer 6-9 1-2 14, Guthrie 5-14 0-0 11, Vieira 3-7 2-4 8, Arthur 3-7 1-1 7, Nease 2-4 0-0 4, Dunn 1-2 0-0 2, Simpson 1-3 0-0 2, Fuehrer 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 21-49 FG, 4-7 FT, 48 points.
Clay City (51)
Rhodes 6-9 2-3 18, Defore 4-7 3-5 13, Higgins 3-5 1-2 8, Kennedy 2-13 2-3 8, Seymour 1-1 0-2 2, Griffith 1-2 0-1 2, Cook 1-3 0-0 2, Heffner 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 18-41 FG, 8-16 FT, 51 points.
Next game -- Clay City (5-2) will face South Putnam in the finals of the Eagle Holiday Classic at 7:30 p.m. today.