Times Staff Reporter
A heavy dosage of game experience proved beneficial to the Knights of North Clay, whose sixth-grade team churned out two impressive wins against Clay City Tuesday night.
Due to conflicting scheduling at the two schools, the Knights entered Tuesday with 13 games under their belt, while Clay City had only played their first contest the night before. Despite this large discrepancy, it was the Eels who looked like the veteran squad early.
After North Clay got on the board on its first possession, the Eels reeled off 11 consecutive points, building a seven-point lead at the end of one.
Despite the deficit, the Knights got back into the game quickly with a dominant performance in the second quarter. After Ben Girton drained two free throws in the final seconds of the half, North Clay had come all the way back, taking a 17-16 lead at halftime. Coach Kendall Sheets said he was very encouraged with the way his players were able to make up such a deficit in a short amount of time.
The Knights (8-6) kept the momentum throughout the second half, leading to a 40-33 win. Ethan Linton led the offensive effort for North Clay with 15, while Quintan Hayes added 10.
The loss dropped Clay City to 0-2. Coach Dave Kirkling said he anticipated difficulty with North Clay due to the inevitable rust factor that played into the end result. Despite the loss, Kirkland said he thinks his team is on the right track from a fundamental standpoint.
"(Our guys) played well," Kirkland said. "We still have a lot of improvements to make, but our guys work hard and I have no doubt they will do everything they can to get better."
The second game of the night paired the Knights' sixth-grade B-squad against the Eels' fifth-grade team. The age difference proved too much from the get go for Clay City, as North Clay pounced early and never let up, earning a dominating 38-18 win.
John Alsip and Mike Thomas led a balanced North Clay offensive attack, scoring 10 and 9 points respectively. The win moved the Knight B-team to an impressive 9-5 mark on the season.
Like their sixth-grade peers, the loss moved Clay City to 0-2. Fifth-grade coach Stephen Johnson said because they were playing against a higher age level team with more game experience, it wasn't fair to gauge how good his team was, but said he was happy with the results.
"Our team played hard," Johnson said. "We were playing against an older team who has played a lot more games than we have, so it was going to be hard. But I thought we played well."
With two games left in the season, Sheets said he was happy with the progress his team has made. However, he said there were still aspects of the game, most notably rebounding where they needed to improve. Sheets hopes to help his team improve on their fundamental flaws, so as to get them on the right track when heading into higher levels of play.
"I'm really happy with how we've progressed this season," Sheets said. "That said, there are still areas where we can see improvement. I hope we can keep our momentum going, and we can see these kids carry that momentum over into seventh-grade."
North Clay hosts Edgewood tonight at 6 p.m.