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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Eels take on No. 1 Eagles in regional

Friday, March 13, 2009

Will Kennedy leads the team in scoring and rebounding [Order this photo]
Balance and experience will be the hallmarks for the Clay City and Jac-Cen-Del squads taking the floor for the Class A Martinsville Regional on Saturday afternoon.

Both squads are senior-laden and boast lineups that can do damage from a number of spots.

Jac-Cen-Del has a 21-2 mark heading into regional play and is the champion of the South Decatur Sectional last weekend. Five seniors make up the Eagle's roster with five different players averaging six or more points per game.

The high-flying Eagles like to play an uptempo style and get out in transition, which has led to them scoring slightly under 70 ppg. Jac-Cen-Del has outscored its opponents by 21 ppg. this season, allowing just 48.9 ppg.

Clay City head coach Grant McVay commented on the Eagles' balance, which makes them an especially difficult team to prepare for Saturday.

"Jac-Cen-Del is a very balanced team who routinely scores seventy-plus points per game," McVay said. "Matt Gehl is a very talented guard who averages just

under twenty-one points per game, but they have a lot of kids who can handle the basketball and get to the basket well. Having multiple scoring threats makes them a unique challenge for anyone defensively."

Gehl is a 6'2 senior forward that has a multi-faceted game for the Eagles.

He averages 20.7 ppg., but uses his athleticism to dish out five assists per game along with 7.7 rpg. He's also a talented perimeter shooter, having hit 55 3-pointers this season.

Checking in at 14 ppg. is 5'10 guard Blake Sutton, who hits 46 percent from long-range and has hit 43 3-pointers.

Tim Arnett is a 6'3 senior center that pours in 11.5 ppg. with sophomore, Trevor Arnett adding 7.9 ppg. and Gerald Hardesty is a 6'4 center that leads the team at eight boards per game and 5.6 ppg.

Perhaps the most pivotal stat in Saturday's game could be the rebounding battle.

The Eagles are adept at pounding the glass and have dominated many of their opponents in the category. McVay also pointed out that Jac-Cen-Del's transition game is fed by its rebounding ability.

"Without question, the Eagles ability to rebound the basketball well is a big key for them," McVay said. "They are long and athletic and attack the glass well at both ends of the floor. Keeping teams off the offensive glass is important in any game, but it's their defensive rebounding that spurs their transition game."

The Eels have made a living this season by hitting for a high-percentage from the field as four different players have hit better than 45 percent from the field this season. Doing the same against the Eagles could help neutralize Jac-Cen-Del's transition game to a degree.

Levi Seymour averages 6.2 ppg. and hits 55 percent from the field while grabbing four rebounds per contest. But the Eels get major contributions from their entire roster.

Will Kennedy, at 6'4, is the teams' leading scorer (13.5 ppg.) and rebounder (7.3 rpg.), but Jordan Defore hits at a 51 percent clip from the field while averaging 9.4 ppg. and 5.7 rpg. Kyler Rhodes averages 5.6 ppg. and three rebounds with Braxton Griffith scoring 9.88 ppg.

Coming off the bench, Logan Higgins provides 6.73 ppg. and 2.7 rpg. with Orry Heffner adding 4.6 ppg. and hitting 54 percent of his shots. D.J. Newton adds 2.7 ppg. and hits 44 percent of his shots from the field.

Clay City matches up well with Jac-Cen-Del as far as size is concerned, but McVay knows his team will have to remain focused on the game plan to have success regional success.

"We will have to be focused on our jobs defensively in order to make them have to work offensively," McVay said. "At this point, our kids understand the necessity of not only playing very hard, but playing intelligently as well.

For us to advance, we'll have to play well defensively while taking care of the ball and aggressively attacking when good scoring opportunities are available," McVay added.

With a senior-laden roster, Clay City might be excused for having felt some pressure to come through with a sectional title, but McVay shrugged off any undue sense of urgency for his team.

"As for the pressure being off, I don't know that we've felt that much pressure throughout the tournament. This group has focused on doing their best with each opportunity presented. The opportunity to play for a sectional championship was just that, a great opportunity. By winning the sectional, we now have another opportunity," McVay said.

Having a crack at the top-ranked team in the state is a task that McVay feels his team is prepared to tackle.

"Playing the No. 1 team in Class A may be a challenge, but more than that it is a great opportunity for our kids," McVay said. "We may be the 'underdog' against Jac-Cen-Del, but I believe we would still approach the game as a great opportunity if the roles were reversed."