Times Sports Editor
CLAY CITY -- The Bloomfield Cardinals played impressively on defense and took advantage of a tentative Clay City Eels squad to win its fifth game out of the last six contests on Thursday evening.
Bloomfield held Clay City to just nine-of-33 shooting from the field on the way to a 38-28 victory and a Southwestern Indiana Conference victory.
Scoring was at a premium from the opening tip for both teams as both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm over the first eight minutes. The Eels got a 3-pointer from Carmela Roeschlein and a drive from Brielle Drelick, but the Cardinals held a 6-5 lead at the first stop despite hitting only three-of-12 in the quarter.
Roeschlein, one of the Eels main offensive threats, was held to just three points in the game, which was pivotal for the Cardinals. Junior Alley Gilliland drew the assignment and Coach Chris Hitchcock admitted that Gilliland's work on the defensive end was a big key to the victory.
"Alley is a tremendous athlete. That was our game plan (limiting Roeschlein), hopefully Ally could stop her and I didn't know that we'd be able to do that good of a job on her," Hitchcock said. "(Roeschlein) hit the first 3-pointer and I told Alley to stop helping and we basically played man-to-man with no help on her and took her out of the game. (Clay City) is a very talented team, it was a more physical game than I expected, (Clay City) being more guard oriented, but I thought our defense was the key to the win."
The Cardinals were able to open some breathing room in the second quarter thanks to Brittney Combs, who hit all three of her jumpers and turned a tight game into a 20-12 lead, that seemed much bigger, at the halftime break. Elyse Weddle added six first half points for Bloomfield and Clay City was held to mostly a seven-point effort from Brielle Drelick.
Clay City coach Chris Ames pointed out the Cardinals' defensive performance was aided by a stagnant Clay City offense.
"We were very tentative as a whole and the thing that disappoints me is that in practice the last two days, that's what we worked on, being ready to be a threat with the basketball," Ames said. "We played the offense of 'stand and watch' tonight and when you do that against a strong defensive team, the game's going to be slowed down and we didn't stop them enough."
Coming out of halftime, Julie Riggins hit a jumper for the Cardinals, but Drelick added a free throw and a bucket to narrow the Cardinals' lead to 22-15, but Taylor Gilmore answered in transition for Bloomfield. Weddle added two free throws to extend the gap, but Madison Booe's jumper at the buzzer got the Eels back to within 26-18.
In the fourth quarter, Kelly McCullough opened the period with a pair of free throws for Clay City and then hit a jumper with 5:32 remaining to get the Eels back to 26-22, but a pair of free throws from Gilliland and a score by Weddle off an offensive rebound pushed the lead back to 30-22 less than two minutes later.
With every possession becoming that much more important as the clock became a factor, the Cardinals hit their free throws.
Gilliland hit two with 2:35 left in the game, Combs added another and a three-point play by Gilmore basically sealed the outcome.
"We are getting better," Hitchcock said. "We had a setback at Washington when we didn't play well, but we're learning to play with the consistency it takes to win every night. We're playing defense when we need to play defense and we're getting stops when we need to get stops. When we hit our free throws, we're very hard to beat and tonight we hit a lot of free throws in key spots."
The Eels got 15 points from Drelick, but no other player had more than four. The Cardinals got 10 points each from Gilliland and Weddle followed by nine from Gilmore. Weddle also had nine rebounds to lead the squad.
In the JV game, Clay City's Carli Jo Milner hit the game-winner with under five seconds remaining for an 18-16 Eels win.
At Clay City
Riggins 1-7 0-0 2, Gilliland 3-8 4-4 10, Combs 3-9 1-4 7, Gilmore 4-11 1-1 9, Elyse Weddle 4-7 2-2 10, Pinnick 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-42 8-11 38.
Clay City (28)
Roeschlein 1-6 0-0 3, Drelick 5-14 4-8 15, Reed 0-4 0-0 0, A.Miller 1-2 0-0 2, McCullough 1-3 2-2 4, Booe 1-4 2-2 4, Dayhuff 0-0 0-0 0, S.Miller 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 9-33 8-12 28.
3-point fieldgoals -- Bl 0-4 (Gilliland 0-2, Combs 0-1, Gilmore 0-1), CC 2-7 (Roeschlein 1-2, Drelick 1-1, A.Miller 0-1, McCullough 0-2, Booe 0-1). Total Rebounds -- Bl 29 (El. Weddle 9), CC 22 (Drelick 8). Total Fouls -- Bl 12, CC 14. Fouled out -- CC (A.Miller). Turnovers -- Bl 12, CC 14.
Next game: Clay City (7-8 overall) travels to North Daviess on Monday for varsity only contest. Bloomfield (8-6 overall) travels to Linton that evening.