Times Sports Editor
JASONVILLE -- As far as high school basketball rivalries go, Shakamak vs. Clay City is quickly becoming one not to miss.
Friday's double conference class was no different as Clay City rallied from a five-point deficit in the fourth quarter to half a four-game losing streak to the Lakers.
"(Shakamak) is a talented team," Clay City coach Grant McVay said of the Lakers. "This is a very good team win."
The Lakers were the team that rallied first, coming back from a 13-point deficit in the opening half on the strength of eight, second quarter points from Jordan Crowe. The Eels built a big lead as their defense kept Shakamak from finding any rhythm according to Lakers' coach Steve Brett.
"I thought that early on, we probably took some shots that were questionable," Brett said. I was pleased with our hustle and effort more in the second half than the first. We need to do that more consistently. That's one thing that's been lacking."
The Eels got six points from Will Kennedy in the second quarter while Clay City held Shakamak in single-digits until midway through the second quarter. However, Crowe got hot and hit a pair of 3-pointers to help rally the Lakers to within 26-21 at halftime.
The Lakers stayed on a roll into the third quarter, scoring the first five points on a John Smith free throw, Billy Newton score and a transition 3-pointer from Ethan Stanifer to grab the lead at 27-26.
Braxton Griffith gave the Eels the lead back on a breakaway lay-in and a score by Levi Seymour pushed the advantage to 30-27.
With a rivalry game like this however, physical play often leads to foul trouble and the Eels were forced to send both Griffith and Jordan Defore to the bench with three fouls apiece.
McVay was none too happy about a missed call he felt was missed against the Lakers and drew a technical foul with 2:27 left in the quarter and Shakamak now holding a tenuous 33-32 advantage. Stanifer hit both free throws and Newton scored on an off-balance leaner in the lane and the Lakers seized control at 37-32.
Clay City got even in the foul column early in the fourth quarter and rallied at the free throw line.
Kennedy hit a fade away jumper for the Eels and the Lakers got a pair from the line by T.J. Hill. The Eels crept within 41-39 on five free throws and the Lakers committed a turnover as Higgins dove after a loose ball and earned a jump ball, giving the ball back to the Eels.
The hustle proved pivotal as Griffith came up with a huge 3-pointer to give the Eels a 42-41.
"I challenged the kids during the huddle and Logan's play might have been the biggest of the game," McVay said. "That effort got us an extra possession. It was just a great, gutty play."
"I thought what helped (Clay City) was that we helped them by fouling too many times," Brett said. "Too many times the fouls were unnecessary and there for awhile, their only points came from the line."
The Lakers last lead came on a bucket by Newton shortly afterwards, but Higgins broke free for a score and the foul. The senior converted and then found Griffith for a score after a Lakers' turnover with under three minutes remaining.
Seymour went to the line after he stole the ball on the next possession, hit both free throws and the Eels were up 49-43 with 2:32 left.
Shakamak got within one possession on Newton's 18th-point with 1:36 left in the game, but the Eels were able to hit just enough free throws to close out the game.
"I'm proud of the kids," said McVay. "We got some big rebounds and continued to handle the ball under pressure until we were fouled."
Clay City put three players in double-figures with Kennedy tallying 15 followed by 13 from Griffith and 11 from Seymour.
The Lakers got Smith back from injury after a four-game absence, but missed Jordan Langford in the second half. Langford started, but was slowed with flu-like symptoms. Newton led the team with 18 points followed by nine from Stanifer, eight from Crowe and seven from Smith.
The Lakers fall to 8-8 overall while Clay City improves to 10-5. Shakamak travels to Barr-Reeve this evening and the Eels are off until Thursday when they host North Central.
Clay City (55)
Griffith 5-8 0-0 13, Seymour 3-3 5-7 11, Kennedy 4-8 8-12 15, Rhodes 1-4 1-4 4, Defore 1-3 0-0 2, Higgins 2-4 4-7 8, Heffner 1-2 0-0 2, Newton 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 17-32 17-28 55.
Crowe 3-6 0-0 8, Smith 1-4 5-8 7, Van Horn 0-0 0-0 0, Newton 6-12 6-8 18, Stanifer 2-9 4-4 9, Langford 1-1 0-0 2, Richardson 1-6 1-2 3, Hill 0-2 2-2 2, Stevenson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 14-40 18-24 49.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 4-16 (Griffith 3-6, Rhodes 1-3, Kennedy 0-4, Higgins 0-1, Defore 0-1), SH 3-15 (Stanifer 1-7, Newton 0-1, Richardson 0-3, Crowe 2-4). Total Rebounds -- CC 23 (Kennedy 7), SH 23 (Newton 4, Smith 4). Total Fouls -- CC 19, SH 22. Fouled out -- SH (Smith, Newton). Turnovers -- CC 18, SH 13.