Times Sports Editor
CLAY CITY -- The Eels are beginning to make a stand on the defensive end and recent opponents have been unable to keep up the pace.
Mark Cloverdale down as the most recent team to fall victim to Clay City's aggressive defense.
Clay City forced 28 turnovers against the visiting Clovers and pulled away in the second half of a 61-43 victory to improve to 7-5 overall.
Cloverdale's Hall of Fame coach, Pat Rady, owner of 683 coaching victories in his career, pointed to the obvious reasons for his team's loss.
"We had 18 turnovers in the first half and it seemed that every one of them led to a transition basket," Rady commented. "When we did play defense I thought we did a good job. But we gave (Clay City) too many easy opportunities."
The Eels forced 10 turnovers in the first quarter alone and doubled up the Clovers, 18-9, after the opening eight minutes. Cloverdale was only able to get off five shots in the first period while the Eels hoisted 16 of their own.
The Clovers' deficit grew to as much as 26-9 early in the second quarter before they settled down and found their outside stroke.
Jacob Clark, Jordan Hayden and Jason Salter each knocked home 3-pointers in a 12-0 run that got Cloverdale back within 26-21.
Defense helped spark the Clovers' rally as Clay City turned the ball over five times as point guard Braxton Griffith sat on the bench with two fouls. But the Eels broke free to get a lay-in by Logan Higgins with 1:52 left in the half and added scores from Orry Heffner and Jordan Defore to grow the lead back to 32-23 at the halfway point.
The third quarter proved to be decisive for the Eels, which continued to pressure Brandon Moon, who was coming off a 24-point performance against Southmont on Saturday night, was harassed by multiple defenders all night and limited to just 11 points.
"This was a total team effort and I don't mean that lightly or as a cliché," Clay City coach Grant McVay said. "Look at how many kids chased (Brandon) Moon. We had five kids guard him tonight."
Cloverdale turned the ball over six more times in the third quarter and Clay City ended the third quarter on a 10-2 run.
Following a jumper by Eric Kukman that drew the gap to just 37-27, Clay City hit its lone 3-pointer of the game and got two free throws from Defore following an offensive rebound. Braxton Griffith scored on a driving lay-in and Will Kennedy added back-to-back baskets as the lead ballooned to 48-29 for the Eels.
"I think the kids know that if they are going anywhere, that (defense) is the key," McVay said regarding his team's effort. "It's all about intelligent effort."
The Eels got plenty of that during a stretch that put the game out of reach of the Clovers.
Clay City strung together 12 straight points on a run that extended into the fourth quarter and was halted only by a 3-pointer by Salter.
Hayden hit a late 3-pointer to narrow the gap back to as close as 17 at 58-41, but the Eels spread the floor at the end of the game to run down the clock.
"Give them credit," said Rady of the Eels. "They are a veteran team with six seniors. They do a very good, but we have two more games this week and we'll get back to practice."
Hayden and Moon were tied for top-scoring honors for the Clovers with 11 points apiece and Salter added eight. Clay City was paced by Higgins' 15 points.
In the JV game, Clay City got 10 points from Jake Tiefel, nine from Josh Decker and seven from Ben Denker, but fell 44-34.
Clay City hosts Sullivan on Friday night at 6 p.m.
At Clay City
Moon 4-8 2-2 11, Kukman 3-6 0-0 6, Hayden 4-6 0-0 11, Dean 1-3 0-0 2, Lovins 0-1 0-0 0, Clark 2-4 0-2 5, Salter 3-5 0-0 8, Moore 0-1 0-0 0, Grounds 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-35 2-4 43.
Clay City (61)
Griffith 3-12 0-0 6, Seymour 2-4 0-0 4, Kennedy 5-10 0-1 10, Rhodes 3-6 0-0 7, Defore 3-6 3-4 9, Higgins 6-10 3-4 15, Heffner 5-6 0-0 10, Decker 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 24-52 6-9 61.
3-point fieldgoals -- CL 7-14 (Salter 2-3, Hayden 3-4, Clark 1-3, Moon 1-4), CC 1-12 (Griffith 0-5, Rhodes 1-3, Higgins 0-1, Kennedy 0-1, Heffner 0-1, Defore 0-1). Total Rebounds -- CL 19 (Dean 6), CC 29 (Defore 6, Higgins 6). Total Fouls -- CL 11, CC 10. Turnovers -- CL 28, CC 18.
Next games: Clay City (7-5 overall) faces Sullivan at home on Friday night while Cloverdale (3-9 overall) hosts North Putnam on Friday evening.