Times Sports Editor
SWITZ CITY -- The Clay City Eels are reaching rarified territory this season.
The Eels reached the sectional championship game to be held at 7:30 p.m. this evening at White River Valley High School after defeating Union, 63-45.
Clay City will be playing for the school's first sectional basketball championship since 1976.
The Bulldogs kept the game close for much of the contest with timely perimeter shooting by B.J. Howard and Logan Chesterfield.
Clay City's ability to score in bunches however, kept the Eels in front for nearly the entire contest.
"I'm proud of the effort the kids gave," coach Grant McVay said. "We had a few lapses when we got up in the mid-teens and had a chance to take command, but give (Union) credit for the energy they displayed on each end."
Balance has been the hallmark of this year's Clay City team and the win over the Bulldogs had the same stamp.
Kyler Rhodes and Levi Seymour combined for nine first quarter points and Will Kennedy added a 3-pointer as Clay City opened up a 12-8 lead.
However, in the second quarter, it was Jordan Defore that found his stroke, slashing to the hoop and knocking down a 3-pointer as part of a nine-point outburst in the period.
The Eels forced six turnovers in the second quarter and opened up a 28-14 lead at the halfway point.
Credit Union however, the Bulldogs didn't let their underdog status wear on their minds.
Kennedy came out and rang up seven early points for Clay City to push the gap out to 35-19 and the Eels were on the verge of a blowout.
Howard, who scored seven points of his own in the quarter, answered with a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer by sophomore Trent Collins kicked off a 7-0 Bulldog run to narrow the advantage to 35-26.
But as has been the case many times this season, the Eels used a burst of scoring to regain a comfortable margin heading into the fourth quarter.
A bucket by Kennedy, who had a game-high 21 points and 11 rebounds, led bo a score by Rhodes. A Union turnover fed Defore for a 3-pointer and another miscue led to a 3-pointer from Kennedy. Logan Higgins and Rhodes each added scores and a quick 12-0 Clay City run pushed the lead back to 49-27.
McVay pointed to his team's defense for feeding the scoring outburst.
"We've got more length than we've had in several years," McVay said. "Logan, DJ (Newton) and Orry (Heffner) can cause problems off the bench with their length and athleticism. It's not a luxury we've often had."
Kennedy opened the fourth quarter with a three-point play and Defore followed off a nice feed from Braxton Griffith as the lead grew to as much as 54-31. Griffith added all three of his points in the fourth quarter before the reserves for each team took the floor to finish the game.
Defore had 14 points for the Eels followed by nine from Rhodes and seven from Higgins and six from Levi Seymour.
Clay City advances to 16-7 overall and faces Shakamak in the sectional championship game this evening at 7:30 p.m.
Class A White River Valley Sectional
Clay City (63)
Griffith 1-6 1-2 3, Seymour 2-2 2-2 6, Kennedy 6-10 6-7 21, Rhodes 4-7 0-1 9, Defore 5-5 2-2 14, Higgins 3-4 0-0 7, Heffner 0-2 0-0 0, Newton 1-2 0-3 3, Decker 0-0 0-0 0, Denker 0-1 0-0 0, Tiefel 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-38 11-17 63.
Union (Dugger) (45)
B.J. Howard 2-7 5-6 11, Chesterfield 4-11 2-4 11, Talpas 1-4 3-4 5, Boyd 1-4 0-0 3, Brust 1-3 0-0 2, Collins 4-6 0-0 10, Wilkes 0-0 0-0 0, D. Howard 0-1 0-0 0, Langley 0-0 0-0 0, T.Talpas 0-1 0-2 0, Reynolds 1-1 1-1 3. Totals: 14-38 11-17 45.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 8-14 (Kennedy 3-4, Newton 1-2, Higgins 1-1, Defore 2-2, Rhodes 1-3, Griffith 0-2), Un 6-16 (BJ Howard 2-5, Collins 2-3, Boyd 1-3, Chesterfield 1-4, DJ Howard 0-1). Total Rebounds -- CC 28 (Kennedy 11, Seymour 6), Un 17 (BJ Howard 5). Total Fouls -- CC 13, Un 15. Turnovers -- CC 16, Un 16.