Times Sports Editor
CLAY CITY -- If Thursday's attendance at the junior high girls' battle between North Clay and Clay City is any indication, interest is piqued amongst hoops fans around the county.
The eighth-grade Eels rolled into the game with a 14-1 record overall and owners of a Southwestern Indiana Conference championship.
With several hundred fans in attendance, the Clay City Eels came out firing in the early minutes, pressing and trapping their way to a quick 10-0 lead. Already missing starter Dallas Butts due to illness, the Knights were struck a death blow in the third quarter as Clay City ran off a 26-point period on the way to a 53-21 victory.
In the seventh-grade contest, it was North Clay's defense and rebounding that stood out in a 32-16 victory for the Knights.
For Clay City's eighth-grade team, the squad's pressure defense led directly to an offensive barrage that paced their victory.
In the opening minutes, Carmela Roeschlein continued her marksmanship from the perimeter, sinking a 3-pointer to start the scoring and Brielle Drelick followed with a steal and a lay-in for a three-point play.
Those plays set the tone as Clay City's pressure led to six first quarter turnovers and the Eels took advantage of nearly every one.
Drelick scored nine of her 17 points in the first quarter alone and Clay City rolled out to a 15-3 lead before North Clay could settle into any sort of rhythm.
Roeschlein went to the bench during the second quarter with two fouls and North Clay was able to get a second hoop from Alyssa Conrad and two free throws from Heidi Hansen to trail 23-7 at the midway point.
Hansen and Loren Anderson scored off the bat and a jumper from Conrad narrowed the lead to 29-11, but the Eels were saving their best for last.
In an eye popping three-minute span, Clay City's defense and hot shooting shut the door firmly on the Knights.
A lay-in by North Clay's Cheriken Dean set the score at 31-13, but Drelick sank a jumper from the corner and Allie Miller got hot for the Eels.
Miller scored off a feed from Roeschlein and a steal in the backcourt led to a quick two for Drelick. Next trip down the court, Miller nailed a 3-pointer and Roeschlein followed with another from long range.
Roeschlein had four 3-pointers in the game on the way to a game-high 20 points. Her final bomb pushed the lead to 43-14 in the blink of an eye.
Roeschlein scored off another turnover and then teamed with Drelick on an assist in the closing seconds. Shaya Stevenson capped a remarkably quick 18-1 run to end the quarter.
All told, the Eels scored 26 points in a six-minute quarter that gave them a 49-14 lead heading into the final quarter.
Kylie McKee made a dent in the final margin for the Knights, scoring all seven of her points down the stretch.
Riggs and Drelick each had six rebounds for the Eels and Hansen had four to pace the Knights.
Asie Jeffers had four boards for Clay City over the final three quarters of play and Miller added in seven points to go with four rebounds.
The North Clay seventh-grade had some more success, getting out to a narrow 6-2 lead after the first quarter as Cassie Weddle grabbed four boards and had four of her seven points.
The Knights held a slim 11-7 lead at the half as Clay City's Madison Booe got untracked for all seven Eels' points.
The third quarter was once more the decisive six minutes of the game as North Clay's Taylor Carter found her stroke.
Carter scored off a baseline feed from Sierra Girton and followed with a long jumper to push the lead to 15-7. Carter continued her hot streak by nailing a shot from just inside the 3-point line on her way to 10 points.
Brylie Riddell picked up the defense with two blocks in the quarter and had eight rebounds to go with six points.
Booe kept the Eels as close as she could, scoring 12 of her team's 16 points. Callie Dayhuff had the remaining two points for the Eels.
The Knights extended their lead to 26-7 after three quarters as Weddle knocked home a 3-pointer to end the period.
The Eels would get no closer than 14 points in the final quarter and the Knights' Andrea Schultz capped the scoring with a short jumper at the horn.
Hayley Rodgers had five rebounds for the Knights and Girton added six boards.
The Eels' seventh-grade finish their season at 3-8 overall with the eighth ending at 15-1. The seventh-grade Knights are now 9-6 overall and the eighth-grade is 7-7.
At Clay City
3-point fieldgoals -- NC (McKee), CC 5 (Roeschlein 4, Miller).
3-point fieldgoals -- NC (Weddle), CC (none).