BY CLAY CUNNINGHAM
Times Staff Reporter
North Clay Middle School suffered two tough losses on the hardwood Wednesday night as both seventh and eighth grade squads fell to very tough Sullivan squads.
The seventh-grade came out sluggish, and were never able to establish momentum in a 39-29 loss to the undefeated Golden Arrows. The Knights' offense struggled to find open shots and were forced into several turnovers, which led to an 11-point halftime deficit.
"We had problems getting into our offense," North Clay coach Clay Huffman said. "They had a lot of ball pressure and we couldn't get going."
The Knights were led in scoring by Joe Ball and Jacob Harden, who each put up nine points. Huffman was also praiseful of his team's defensive effort, giving particular praise to the effort of Derek Mills.
The loss moved the Knights to 5-8 on the season. This was the squad's final game before heading into winter break. Huffman was very specific in how his team could improve their record.
"We've gotta execute on offense," Huffman said. "We have to work on defense, and our boxing out, but we just need to get better on offense."
The eighth-grade suffered defeat of a more heartbreaking variety.
North Clay took control of the game early, ending the first half on a 9-0 run, taking a 13-7 lead into the locker room. The Knights carried their momentum over into the third, pushing their lead as high as 13.
However, foul trouble and turnovers started to mount, as Sullivan accumulated a 14-0 run between the end of the third and beginning of the fourth period.
The teams traded the lead four times, and North Clay was able to pull ahead by a 26-25 margin after two free throws by Ethan Whitson.
Sadly for North Clay, those free throws would be their last points, as the Arrows pulled away to a 33-26 lead.
"We played great for two-and-a-half quarters," said eighth-grade coach Shawn Hughes. "But to win, you've got to play great for four."
Whitson was the Knight's leading scorer with 14, while Ian Heffner added six. Several Knights aided a solid defensive effort, including Tyler Rector, who drew multiple charging fouls.
The loss moved the eighth-grade record to 10-3. Despite the magnitude of Tuesday's loss, Hughes said he didn't believe his team would have any trouble returning to their winning ways when they return from winter sabbatical.
"We'll move on from this," Hughes said. "Everybody played hard, but against a good team, you can't have bad stretches like that. But nobody gave up and we should be ok."