Clay City boys claim Eagle Holiday Classic title over South Putnam
By CAREY FOX
Times Sports Editor
GREENCASTLE -- The Clay City Eels came out firing in the championship game of the Eagle Holiday Classic on Saturday night.
The Eels hit four of their eight 3-pointers in the first quarter and hounded the Eagles into 23 turnovers in the game on the way to a 61-37 victory over the host squad.
Three different Eels hit double-figures, led by senior Braxton Griffith's 18-point night.
Clay City, which hadn't seen game action since Dec. 19 before Friday's tourney opener, hopes to have hit its stride as the schedule picks up quickly.
"We really needed this eight-day span," Clay City coach Grant McVay said. "Regardless of the outcome of these five games, at least we're going to play five games in eight days and hopefully become a little more of a varsity team in terms of our timing."
The timing appeared to be impeccable for much of Saturday's contest as Clay City got a pair of 3-pointers from both Kyler Rhodes and Griffith in opening an 18-11 lead after one quarter.
Clay City held the Eagles to eight-of-21 (38 percent) shooting before the half while hitting 50 percent of its own shots to hold a 10-point lead at the break.
Griffith was aggressive in his drives to the hoop to complement his outside shooting. The senior point guard hit a hanging, contested shot in the lane to end the scoring in the first quarter before adding the third of his four 3-pointers in the second quarter.
The Eagles, while much bigger than the Eels, struggled to move the ball under duress from Clay City's trapping defense.
Logan Higgins tallied all seven of his points in the second quarter to complement Griffith's offense. With the Eels pushing the ball, Clay City was able to take control of the pace of the game and not allow the Eagles to be physical in the halfcourt.
"We challenged our kids. It was very important that we dictate the personality of the game, given the way our two squads matched up," McVay said. "If we played a traditional half court game with them, I think (South Putnam) could quite possibly have beaten us, that's how good a job they do getting the ball to (Noah) Boswell, (Conor) Frame and (Adam) Masters.
"I felt like the quicker we could get the game going tonight, the more we could get the kids into the open floor the better."
After scoring a pair of baskets in the opening quarter, Levi Seymour, opened the second half by adding a baseline jumper and a three-point play to push the gap to 38-23 early in the third quarter.
Seymour, who had a 13-point, eight-rebound night, was deadly to any hopes the Eagles had of making a second half surge.
"I can't say enough good things about what kind of person and a role model that Levi (Seymour) is," McVay said. "He may not score as much as he did tonight, but everything he does is a byproduct of hard work."
Jordan Defore followed Seymour's run with a steal and a score off a rebound and, following one of the Eagles' six turnovers in the quarter, Will Kennedy scored for a 42-23 lead.
Opening the fourth quarter, Griffith knocked home his fourth 3-pointer of the game to extend the Eels' lead back to 17 points at 45-28.
Though Griffith scored just five of his 18 points in the second half, McVay pointed to the senior's defense as being a key factor in the Eels' win.
"Braxton (Griffith) played really well. Most of those points were in the first half, but he did a really good job defending right at the outset of the game on (South Putnam's Cameron Chestnut) and that was an important match up in terms of setting the tone of the game," McVay said.
Clay City kept up the pressure down the stretch, forcing another seven turnovers in the fourth quarter and sank 11 free throws in the quarter to salt away the team's fourth win of the year heading into the Greene County Tourney this week.
The Eels (4-3 overall) take on Vincennes Rivet at 6 p.m. on Wednesday night at White River Valley High School.
Eagle Holiday Classic
At South Putnam
Clay City (61)
Griffith 6-10 2-2 18, Seymour 4-4 5-7 13, Kennedy 2-13 2-3 7, Rhodes 3-6 1-2 10, Defore 2-5 2-2 6, Higgins 3-6 1-2 7, Newton 0-1 0-0 0, Heffner 0-1 0-3 0. Totals: 20-46 13-21 61.
South Putnam (37)
Chestnut 2-2 1-2 6, Frame 3-8 0-0 6, Dean 0-3 1-2 1, Boswell 5-10 3-3 13, Masters 0-3 0-0 0, Nelson 4-5 0-2 8, Cash 1-3 0-0 3, Vickrey 0-0 0-1 0. Totals: 14-34 5-10 37.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 8-14 (Griffith 4-6, Rhodes 3-5, Kennedy 1-2, Newton 0-1), SP 2-5 (Chestnut 1-1, Nelson 0-1, Cash 1-2, Boswell 0-1). Total Rebounds -- CC 22 (Seymour 8, Kennedy 4), SP 24 (Masters 7, Boswell 5). Total Fouls -- CC 12, SP 17. Turnovers -- CC 9, SP 23.