Times Sports Editor
GREENCASTLE -- Letting a six-point fourth quarter lead slip away in a loss to South Putnam wasn't exactly how Clay City coach Keith Jones wanted to end the regular season. But the Eagles came up with just enough plays and hit nearly all of their free throws in the decisive fourth quarter of a 50-46 decision.
Afterwards, Jones pointed to the free throw shooting as the biggest reason for his team's loss in addition to getting the short end of some calls down the stretch.
"We missed enough free throws to win," said Jones. "We have to hit our free throws to be successful."
The Eels needed to look no further than the opposing bench on Tuesday night to see that their coaches' words rang true.
The Eagles got to the line 20 times in the game, hitting 16 of them and, most importantly, nailed nine-of-11 in the final quarter when they overcame the six-point deficit.
South Putnam guard Megan Canary celebrated senior night in style during the second half after getting off to a bit of a sluggish start.
"Megan did a nice job of getting to the line," commented Eagles' coach Debbie Steffy. "She eight-of-10 free throws in the fourth quarter and that helped a lot."
The 5'7 Eagles' guard scored 14 of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter after tallying just five in the first half. Not coincidentally, the Eagles trailed 23-16 at the midway point despite holding the Eels' top two scorers, Angie Camp and Britney Glass, to a combined four points.
The Eagles held the pair to just 11 points in the game, 13 below their combined average.
While Steffy was pleased with her team's effort against the pair, but she pointed out that stopping the Eels' duo wasn't necessarily a stress in the Eagles' game plan.
"Clay City is a good team. If you stop those two (Glass and Camp), then Mardi Steiner steps out and can hit shots or (Lydia) Farmer can hits shots or Reed can score too," said Steffy.
Glass had to go to the bench just four minutes into the game after picking up her second foul, but Shelby Targett came in to score four points and grab two rebounds in some important minutes.
"Shelby gave us some good minutes," said Jones of his sophomore forward.
It was Steiner however that kept her team ahead of the Eagles for much of the game, getting hot from long range and dropping 17 points on South Putnam while going five-of-eight from 3-point range.
"I was glad to see Mardi shoot the ball," commented Jones. "That's what she can do," he said of her perimeter prowess.
But in the fourth quarter it was the Eagles' ability to get to the line and finish around the basket that ultimately sealed the Eels' fate.
The Eagles trailed 42-36 with just more than four minutes remaining when Canary rebounded her own miss, scored the put back and was fouled. She completed the three-point play, one of four in the second half for South Putnam.
After a free throw from Glass, Canary got to the line again to hit two free throws and after Camp did the same for the Eels, Bailey Birt scored another three-point play for the Eagles.
The play got the Eagles within 45-44 and when Canary drove to the basket and was fouled on the baseline, her free throws gave the Eagles a lead they wouldn't relinquish, 46-45.
The Eels turned the ball over on the ensuing possession and, once again, Canary hit a free throw for a 47-45 lead.
Glass had a late chance to tie the score from the free throw line with 26 seconds left, but hit just one-of-two and Canary's eighth free throw finished off the Eagles' ninth win. Birt scored on a fast break at the buzzer to complete the scoring.
"We did a better job on defense in the second half," said Steffy. "We knew what we had to do, in the first half we just made little mistakes."
"Clay City is a good team and this is a good win for us," commented Steffy, in her 10th year with the team. "This is a nice way to send out our seniors and now we have to get ready for North Putnam and then the sectional."
The Eagles JV was also a winner, scoring a 36-23 win over the Eels.
Chantel Narlock had eight points and Sloan Miller added seven for the Eels.
Clay City faces White River Valley in the opening round of the sectional next week.
At South Putnam
Clay City (46)
Glass 1-4 3-6 5, Reed 1-5 2-2 4, Steiner 5-7 2-4 17, Farmer 5-12 0-0 10, Camp 1-3 4-8 6, Targett 2-4 0-0 4. Totals: 15-35 11-20 46.
South Putnam (50)
Canary 7-19 9-11 23, Birt 5-13 3-3 13, Boetjer 2-15 1-3 7, Mink 2-2 0-1 4, Butts 0-1 0-0 0, Hughes 1-2 0-0 2, Searles 0-3 1-2 1. Totals: 17-55 16-20 50.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 5-8 (Steiner 5-9, Targett 0-1), SP 0-12 (Boetjer 0-5, Canary 0-4, Birt 0-3). Total Rebounds -- CC 37 (Camp 7, Glass 7), SP 28 (Birt 8). Total Fouls -- CC 17, SP 15. Turnovers -- CC 16, SP 8.