Times Sports Editor
SPENCER -- The Owen Valley Patriots might have lost some key components from last season's squad that reached the Class 3A State Basketball Finals, but this year's edition is still a formidable opponent.
The Patriots graduated both Nickole and Heather Gonser, who each are contributing valuable minutes for the University of Indianapolis, which is unbeaten and third-ranked in the nation at the Division II level. However, Kaitlin Sweatman, a 5'10 senior, did the most damage against Clay City on Monday evening.
The forward scored 31 points and pulled down 12 rebounds while fronting the Patriots' impressive transition game as Owen Valley scored a 67-46 victory in Spencer.
Owen Valley's swarming defense created eight turnovers in the first quarter against the Eels and that translated into eight points off those miscues and a 17-12 lead after the opening stanza.
Sam Cooper, who drives the Patriots' offense from her point guard spot, sank a pair of 3-pointers to spark Owen Valley's inside-outside game, which created havoc for the Eels early.
"(Owen Valley) did a great job," Clay City coach Chris Ames said. "They are an established team. Coach (Steve) Goddard does a good job. (Sam) Cooper came out and hit those two 3-pointers and that extended us farther than we really wanted to. We knew we had to stop their inside/outside game, they started out really well and that hurt us. We started chasing the ball instead of really playing position defense."
Cooper scored nine of her 13 points in the first period and Sweatman's six points gave Patriot fans a glimpse into what was to come over the course of the rest of the contest.
The Eels stayed within five points early on the strength of a combined 11 points by Carmela Roeschlein and Brielle Drelick over the opening quarter. However, it was in the second period that Sweatman began to exert her prowess around the hoop.
The senior hit all three of her fieldgoals and both free throws while grabbing three boards as Owen Valley pulled out to a 30-20 lead at the half.
Though Sweatman was giving his team fits, Ames couldn't help but appreciate her physical ability in leading Owen Valley to the 10-point halftime advantage.
"The (Kaitlin) Sweatman girl, as an opposing coach, she was a lot of fun to watch," Ames said. "We should have done some things a little better, but she played a good game and she runs the floor so well and their guards push the ball off the glass so well. It's in our scouting report to get back and we didn't do that of course and Owen Valley did a really good job."
Turnovers again fueled Owen Valley in the third quarter as Sweatman scored 10 points, four of them off turnovers by the Eels. The Patriots' advantage grew to 43-22 after a bucket by Caitlin Leichter. However, Clay City wasn't going to go away easily.
Drelick completed a three-point play and Kelly McCullough added a free throw to keep the lead at 50-28 heading into the final period.
Opening the fourth quarter, Clay City continued to surge, getting a jumper from Drelick, who had a team-high 21 points, and Roeschlein followed with a 3-pointer off a turnover. Two free throws by Roeschlein completed a 7-0 Eels run to get Clay City within 50-35. Sweatman followed with a score off rebound in transition and Caitlyn Kinnick added a score as the lead grew back to 54-36. The Eels then got 3-pointers from Allie Miller and Roeschlein to get Clay City as close as they would get down the stretch at 56-42.
A timeout by Goddard seemed to settle the Patriots and Mack Evans scored before a three-point play by Sweatman with 3:17 remaining ended any doubts about the outcome.
"(Coach Goddard) called a timeout after we had made a run and again, out of position defensively, you know, we're working on it, we can see it on tape and get better from it," Ames said. "When we played well at times we moved the basketball, when we stand, we're not very good.
"I didn't think our girls quit, it wasn't a lack of effort," Ames continued. "We got a little tired and (Owen Valley) kept the pedal to the floor and I give them credit."
The Eels got 18 points from Roeschlein to go with Drelick's 21, but no other Eel scored more than three points in the loss that evens the Eels season mark at 7-7 overall.
Clay City is back in action on Thursday at home against another tough opponent in Bloomfield.
At Owen Valley
Clay City (46)
Roeschlein 4-13 7-8 18, Drelick 6-12 9-11 21, Reed 0-3 1-2 1, A.Miller 1-3 0-0 3, McCullough 0-2 1-2 1, S.Miller 0-1 0-0 0, Booe 1-4 0-0 2, Riggs 0-1 0-0 0, Dayhuff 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 12-39 18-24 46.
Owen Valley (67)
Evans 2-4 1-1 5, Cooper 4-9 3-3 13, Leichter 2-7 0-0 4, Sweatman 13-20 5-5 31, Kinnick 2-3 0-0 4, Matsel 2-3 0-0 5, Heaslet 0-2 1-2 1, Marsh 2-3 0-0 4, Owens 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 27-53 10-11 67.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 4-14 (Roeschlein 3-9, A.Miller 1-3, Reed 0-1, Booe 0-1), OV 3-8 (Evans 0-1, Matsel 1-3, Cooper 2-4). Total Rebounds -- CC 24 (A.Miller 6, Roeschlein 4), OV 34 (Sweatman 12, Leichter 5). Total Fouls -- CC 11, OV 17. Turnovers -- CC 21, OV 14.
JV game -- Owen Valley 49, Clay City 16 (Michaela Riggs 5, Danielle Gossage 4, Callie Dayhuff 4).