Times Sports Editor
CLAY CITY -- In Thursday night's Southewestern Indiana Conference battle at Clay City High School, the game couldn't have gotten off to any worse of a start for the Eels.
The visiting Eastern Thunderbirds looked like they were going to spoil senior night by hitting their first five shots from the field along with two free throws. Eastern grabbed a quick 10-2 lead, but it's all about how you finish.
The Eels trailed by double-digits in the first half, but came back to hold Eastern to just 10 points in the second half of a 39-32 victory.
Eastern's Sam Reed hit her first four shots of the game to give the T-Birds the early advantage. Meanwhile, the Eels couldn't hang onto the ball with seven turnovers in the opening period.
The second quarter wasn't much better for Clay City as they scored just one point over the first 5:30 of the period to fall behind 21-8.
However, Clay City rallied behind its defense as Abby Reed scored off a steal and a lay-in and a tipped pass by Carmela Roeschlein at halfcourt, led to a pair of free throws by Reed. The closing rush by the Eels got them within 22-17 at intermission.
"According to our stats we went on a 9-0 run to end the first half, we came out kind of flat," Clay City coach Chris Ames said. "It's a difficult evening in the sense it was different. It's senior night, and not to use that as an excuse, but we came out flat, called a couple of timeouts and kept after them a little bit. It was their decision if they wanted to play tonight."
Apparently the Eels did want to play and the energy carried over after halftime.
The Eels opened the scoring with a post move by Brielle Drelick for a bucket and after the T-Birds' Reed hit a long jumper just inside the arc, the Eels got a 3-pointer by Roeschlein for her first points of the game. The shot brought the Eels' fans to their feet and Clay City closed the period with two free throws by Roeschlein to tie the game and her drive to the bucket at the buzzer put the Eels in front for the first time, 27-25.
After the 5'10 Reed scored nine points in the first half, Clay City locked down on her and gave up just three points, none in the fourth quarter.
"We had a good game plan against her, we didn't change anything," Ames said. "At halftime, we just said, 'this is what we have to get done. If we don't than we don't have to worry about winning this game or finishing high in the SWIAC."
Roeschlein opened the fourth quarter with another drive to extend the lead to 29-25 before the T-Birds got a pair of free throws from Brittany Igel and one from Alexis Ray.
The game remained close at 31-30 following another bucket by Igel. A Clay City turnover then fed Sydney Spice for a lay-in and the foul. She would miss the free throw as Eastern held a 32-31 lead with 2:48 left.
Clay City wasn't going to let go of the game however, Roeschlein followed with a pair of free throws after being fouled on a drive and Kelly McCullough added a free throw with two minutes remaining.
McCullough, one of two seniors, including Sloan Miller, had 11 rebounds in the game and would be pivotal down the stretch.
A Clay City turnover led to Igel going to the line with 1:31 left, but the sophomore missed both charity tosses as Clay City held onto a 34-32 lead. The T-Birds turned the ball over and McCullough went to the line to hit four straight free throws over a 20 second span to seal the win.
"I told (Kelly) that that is why we shoot (free throws) in practice. We didn't do such a good job the other night at Northview," Ames said. "Tonight I was really happy for her. Of course she's a senior and Sloan (Miller) came in right there at the end of the second quarter and got an offensive rebound and kicked it to Carmela (Roeschlein) who got two free throws."
Drelick added a final free throw to send the Eels to a second-place finish in the SWIAC at 5-2 and improved the season mark to 11-8 overall.
Roeschlein led the way with 12 points along with Drelick and McCullough tallied eight. Drelick also had six boards.
Clay City ends the regular season on Feb. 2 at South Putnam.
At Clay City
Igel 3-7 4-6 10, Spice 1-3 0-1 2, Sherfield 1-5 0-0 2, Wagner 1-3 0-0 2, Reed 5-9 2-4 12, Ray 1-4 1-2 3, Rogers 0-2 1-2 1, Hannock 0-4 0-0 0, Southern 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 12-38 8-14 32.
Clay City (39)
Roeschlein 3-7 5-6 12, Reed 1-6 2-3 4, S.Miller 0-1 0-0 0, A.Miller 1-4 0-0 3, McCullough 1-6 6-8 8, Drelick 4-8 4-7 12, Booe 0-3 0-0 0, Milner 0-0 0-0 0, Gossage 0-0 0-0 0, Riggs 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 10-37 17-24 39.
3-point fieldgoals -- E 0-2 (Sherfield 0-1, Wagner 0-1), CC 2-9 (Roeschlein 1-2, A.Miller 1-2, Reed 0-2, McCullough 0-2, S.Miller 0-1). Total Rebounds -- E 32 (Igel 7), CC 25 (McCullough 11, Drelick 6). Total Fouls -- E 21, CC14. Fouled out -- E (Spice). Turnovers -- E 18, CC 14.
JV -- Clay City wins 24-15. Danielle Gossage and Callie Dayhuff each had seven points.