Times Sports Editor
JASONVILLE -- The Clay City Eels came away with a double conference win on the road at Shakamak on Tuesday night despite nearly letting a 12-point fourth quarter lead slip away in a 43-39 victory that moves the Eels to 2-0 in the Tri-River Conference and 1-0 in the SWIAC.
Neither team seemed to want to gain control of the game in the early going as the squads combined to hit just two-of-16 shots from the field in the first quarter while turning the ball over a combined 14 times. Shakamak emerged with a 6-5 lead after the opening eight minutes, but the advantage was tentative at best.
Clay City finally removed the lid from the basket in the second period, which helped the Eels minimize a 19-11 deficit on the backboards. Carmela Roeschlein scored seven of her 15 points in the quarter and Allie Miller added a 3-pointer as Clay City held a 19-12 lead at the break.
The late run in the first half sparked the Eels into a strong third quarter as Brielle Drelick overcame early foul trouble to make an impression on the Lakers.
"At the end of the second quarter we made some plays and got it where we needed it to be and really came out in the third quarter and did some good things," Eels' coach Chris Ames said.
Drelick was a big reason the Eels were able to build on their lead as she completed a three-point lead after the Lakers' Kristi Pearson hit a jumper. Allie Miller added a bucket for the Eels and Drelick followed with a pair of free throws, a dash along the baseline for a lay-in and an offensive rebound score for a 30-16 lead by the Eels.
"Coach Sinders went up to (Brielle) and calmed her down a little bit because she got excited. You know, this is a big game I think for both teams. We're so close in location, the school sizes are the same and it always seems we play them in the volleyball sectional and the boys' basketball sectional so it's a good small school rivalry," Ames said. "Coach Sinders just told her to be strong with the basketball and take it to the basket and she got us off to a great start. I told her at halftime that we needed her to play in the second half and she really did and gave us that spark."
Another factor in the Eels success came from improved rebounding as Clay City outrebounded Shakamak 15-9 in the second half and limited the Lakers' second chance opportunities.
"Our biggest thing for two years has been to rebound. We're not the most athletic team, you know we have some nice pieces, but we're not very big," Ames said. "You have to make it your mission to block out and to get a board. We got hurt there early and I think some of that was because we stood around offensively. (Shakamak) played a little 2-3, box-and-one, 1-3-1 (defense) on us and we stood there and tried to figure out what they were running instead of just playing the basketball game."
Clay City's 14-point lead at 30-16 didn't last long as Shakamak senior, Casey Fougerousse began to heat up. The guard knocked home a pair of 3-pointers and a free throw to narrow the lead to 35-25 heading into the fourth quarter.
With momentum growing for the Lakers, Clay City struggled to hold onto the ball, turning the ball over six times in the fourth period and hitting just one-of-five from the field. Meanwhile Shakamak began to chip away at the lead on an 10-0 run following a pair of free throws from Drelick that made the score 39-27.
Fougerousse found Mikayla Crane for a hoop, Megan Gambill hit a free throw and a Shakamak steal led to a hoop by Crane. Another 3-pointer by Fougerousse with three minutes remaining cut the lead to 39-35 as Clay City had missed three straight free throws during the streak.
"As you go on the road, if you don't have the talent to simply overcome things like that, it's going to be a dogfight," Ames said of the Eels struggles. "Coach (Troy) Fougerousse had his girls scrapping and they do what they have to do to be aggressive and we got back on our heels. Give credit to Shakamak they hit some big shots."
The Lakers own missed free throws haunted them as well with Pearson missing a pair of chances to cut into the lead with under two minutes left, but Allie Miller missed two for the Eels. However, Kelly McCullough was dominant on the boards for Clay City when they needed her, pulling down five of her game-high 12 rebounds in the fourth quarter.
"Kelly McCullough is our unsung hero. She is a senior that leads us and does so many things for us," Ames said. "She knows what we need defensively and she gets into the passing lane and just rebounded the heck out of the basketball. The little things she does are irreplaceable. I wish I could have 10 of her."
Following another Eels turnover, Gambill hit a pair of shots from the line to cut the lead to 39-37 with 1:17 remaining, but Allie Miller hit a free throw with 20 seconds remaining to counter a leaner by Fougerousse that cut the lead to 40-39 with nine seconds left.
Roeschlein was fouled and hit both of her free throws and then stole a final chance away for the Lakers and added a final free throw for the victory.
In the JV game, Clay City overcame a 19-13 halftime deficit for a 38-31 lead as Danielle Gossage had 13 points, Michaela Riggs added 12 and Callie Dayhuff had seven.
The Eels improve to 2-1 overall and hit the road to face Rockville on Monday evening.
Clay City (43)
Roeschlein 4-12 5-8 15, Drelick 4-14 7-7 15, Reed 0-2 0-0 0, A.Miller 2-10 14- 6, McCullough 1-2 1-3 3, S.Miller 1-1 0-0 2, Booe 1-2 0-0 2, Gossage 0-0 0-2 0. Totals: 13-43 14-22 43.
Fougerousse 5-7 3-10 16, Crane 2-5 3-4 7, Gambill 1-9 6-10 10, Martin 1-4 0-0 2, Pearson 2-5 0-4 4, Gilbert 0-0 0-2 0, Holdaway 0-0 0-2 0. Totals: 11-30 14-33 39.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 3-17 (Roeschlein 2-6, A.Miller 1-6, Drelick 0-4, Reed 0-1), SH 3-6 (Fougerousse 3-4, Martin 0-2). Total Rebounds -- CC 32 (McCullough 12, A.Miller 5), SH 31 (Gambill 9, Fougeroussse 5, Crane 5). Total Fouls -- CC 23, SH 19. Fouled out -- CC (Drelick), SH (Pearson). Turnovers -- CC 18, SH 20.