Times Sports Editor
SWITZ CITY -- Ask any high school basketball coach and they'll tell you that if you are fundamentally sound and take care of the 'small' things in a game, that your likely to come out with a victory.
On Saturday night, the Clay City Eels played tough defense and hit better than 70 percent of their 26 free throws to come away with a 61-52 victory on the road against White River Valley.
"Each time we play (WRV) it's a tough, close game," Clay City coach Grant McVay said. "We lost a heartbreaker last year on Homecoming. (WRV) is without question, one of the most disciplined, best-coached teams around. I enjoy coaching against coach (Gene) Hall. But they are difficult to play against."
Clay City held a two-point lead at halftime, 21-19, and tried to put the host squad away with a quick 6-0 run out of the third quarter gates.
Jordan Defore scored on a drive followed by a steal and lay-in by Kyler Rhodes and leaner in the lane by Will Kennedy. The burst gave the Eels a 27-19, but WRV responded with a three-point play by Jared Shelton that sparked their own 8-0 run to give them a 28-27 lead.
Shelton's second half play the biggest reason that the Wolverines continually had an answer for Clay City's runs.
The 6'0 junior scored 21 of his 24 points in the second half and didn't miss a shot from the field or the free throw line after the break, hitting 15 shots in total.
Shelton completed a second three-point play following a Clay City bucket from D.J. Newton to push the lead to 31-29 for the Wolverines. However, as was the case for most of the second half, the Eels had their own response.
Defore hit a pair of free throws after a jumper from Kennedy and Orry Heffner tallied a free throw to get the Eels within 37-34. Clay City would end the quarter on a 7-0 run as Newton came up with a big 3-pointer and Kennedy added one of his own.
"D.J.'s role is to come in and give great energy defensively and be active," McVay said. "But he's a good shooter. I'm happy for him. You can't underestimate those eight points (he scored)."
In fact, Newton and Rhodes would hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter that would give the Eels the lead for good. The shots followed a leaner by Shelton that got WRV within 40-39. After the two bombs by the Eels, Clay City took a 46-39 lead.
WRV had another run in them as Cole Goodman scored off a rebound and Shelton followed with two free throws. The Eels coughed the ball up under WRV pressure again and the Wolverines got two free throws from Shelton to get within 46-43.
With more than seven minutes remaining in the game, Clay City had reached the bonus situation from the line and the Eels would make it count.
Seymour got to the line and hit four straight free throws to offset a 3-pointer from Shelton and Defore hit four from the line as well.
Clay City hit eight straight in the middle stages of the quarter to hold a 54-46 lead, but Shelton did his own damage at the line. He hit a four in a row sandwiched around an Eels turnover as WRV got back within 54-50 with two minutes left.
Kennedy would miss a pair of free throws with 1:45 remaining, but Defore got to the loose ball and tied up the rebound as Clay City got the benefit of the possession arrow. The Eels made it count when Braxton Griffith hit a pair from the line and when Shelton was called for a charging foul at the other end the Eels hit a free throw and Griffith followed by scoring off a turnover.
Clay City put the game away over the final two minutes with a 7-0 run and hit 13-of-17 from the line in the final period.
"You've got to give credit to Jordan (Defore) and Levi (Seymour). Braxton (Griffith) hit a couple of shots and they hit free throws. That's what you have to do to sustain and build leads," McVay said.
Defore hit seven of his eight shots from the line in the fourth quarter as Clay City won its fourth-straight game to improve to 9-5 overall.
The JV Eels fell 43-33 despite a 17-point game from Ben Denker and 10 points from Jake Tiefel.
The Eels hit the road on Friday hoping to halt a five-game losing streak against Shakamak.
At White River Valley
Clay City (61)
Griffith 1-4 3-4 5, Seymour 3-3 5-5 11, Kennedy 5-9 0-3 11, Rhodes 2-4 0-1 5, Defore 3-6 9-10 15, Newton 3-3 0-0 8, Heffner 0-1 1-2 1, Higgins 2-2 1-1 5. Totals: 19-32 19-26 61.
White River Valley (52)
Hostetter 1-4 0-0 2, Shelton 6-9 10-10 24, Birch 5-15 0-1 10, Dyer 2-2 0-2 4, Dove 3-9 0-0 6, Karr 1-1 0-0 2, Goodman 2-3 0-3 4. Totals: 20-43 10-16 52.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 4-8 (Newton 2-2, Kennedy 1-3, Rhodes 1-2, Griffith 0-1), WRV 2-5 (Shelton 2-2, Hostetter 0-2, Birch 0-1). Total Rebounds -- CC 25 (Kennedy 9, Defore 7), WRV 19 (Dove 5, Goodman 5). Total Fouls -- CC 17, WRV 22. Fouled out -- WRV (Dyer). Turnovers -- CC 18, WRV 17.