Times Staff Reporter
CLAY CITY -- The "rebuilding" of the Clay City boys basketball team got a bit easier Friday, as the Eels won a very tight 50-49 contest against Bloomfield to earn their second consecutive tightly contested game.
Tyler Jenkins broke a 47-all tie with a free throw with 52 seconds remaining. After a missed Cardinal lay-up, Logan Higgins hit two more from the foul line to up the Clay City lead to three. After Bloom-field's Andy Cochrane missed a potential game-tying three, Higgins grabbed a rebound and seemingly sealed an Eel win.
However, for Clay City, one more stop was needed. Higgins was met with contact but no foul was called, and he fell out of bounds with 1.4 seconds to go. After the Cardinals took their final timeout, Eels head coach Vance Edmondson stressed to his players to shut down the outside and give Bloomfield anything underneath.
The strategy paid off. Bryce Lindsey took the in bounds pass and hit an uncontested lay-up. However, with his team unable to stop the clock, the shot proved to be inconsequential, and the Eels earned their second win of the season.
Clay City got major contributions from its two most experienced players. Higgins scored 17 points and led the team with eight rebounds. He gave the team an early momentum boost as his 3-pointer as time expired in the first quarter, cut what was a six-point Bloomfield lead in half.
D.J. Newton, the only other Eel player with notable varsity experience entering the season, tied Higgins for the team lead in scoring, and was tied for second with Tyler Bridgewater with five rebounds. Newton's contributions were not only beneficial, they almost single-handedly turned the momentum in Clay City's favor.
As his team trailed 29-22 early in the third period, Newton went on a tear, going on a personal 10-0 run to give the Eels their first lead since early in the first quarter. All told, 15 of Newton's 17 points came in the second half.
Edmondson said the kind of effort put forth by his most experienced players was going to be crucial in determining how far Clay City will progress as the season moves on.
"It's huge," Edmondson said when asked how important Newton and Higgins' plays were." We are counting on those guys, and tonight they did everything we needed them to do."
Prior to the season, Edmondson was reluctant to express the specific goals he was going to set for his inexperienced team. And while he certainly seemed to be optimistic following a 2-1 start, Edmondson said it is too early to abandon his wait and see approach.
"I think it's still too early to tell how good we can be," Edmodson said. "We're still young and we're still working on improving, but if we continue to play with the intensity we played with tonight, we will be tough to beat."
The junior varsity squad was not as fortunate, as it was handed a 46-35 loss. The Eels showed great fight, coming all the way back from an early 10-0 deficit to pull ahead going into the fourth quarter. Sadly, they stumbled down the stretch, scoring only two points in the final frame to seal their fate.
Jake Tiefel led Clay City with an impressive 13-point effort, while Kole Smith added seven.
Clay City gets little time to savor Friday's win, as they return to action tonight with a home game against Eminence.
At Clay City
Hamm 2 8-9 13, O'Neall 2 0-0 4, Lindsey 3 0-0 6, Cochrane 8 2-3 19, Vandeventer 1 2-2 5, Slaven 1 0-0 2.
Clay City (50)
Newton 6 2-3 17, Denker 3 0-0 6, Jenkins 1 1-2 3, Higgins 6 4-4 17, Bridgewater 2 3-4 7.
3-point field goals -- B 3-11 (Hamm 1-1, O'Neall 0-2, Lindsey 0-1, Cochran 1-5, Vandeventer 1-2), CC 4-12 (Newton 3-6, Decker 0-1, Denker 0-1, Jenkins 0-1, Higgins 1-2, Bridgewater 0-1). Total Rebounds -- B 21 (Cochrane 7, Vandeventer 4) CC 25 (Higgins 8, Newton and Bridgewater 7). Team Fouls -- B 15, CC 14. Turnovers -- B 11, CC 12.