Times Staff Reporter
CLAY CITY -- An energetic Clay City girls' squad is now one game away from capturing the first sectional title in the history of the program, after a gritty 41-32 win over North Central Friday night.
The Eels implemented a slow and meticulous game plan very effectively, helping them earn an impressive win over a Thunderbirds team which soundly defeated them by a score of 47-33 just two short months ago. Clay City's focus seemed to be on perimeter passing and taking only open shots, thus keeping the ball away from North Central for large chunks of time.
Leading by one in the waning moments of the first half, the Eels dodged a bullet when the T-Birds' Amber Kemp missed an open lay-up off a steal, which allowed Clay City to enter halftime with a 13-12 advantage.
After North Central took the lead early in the third, Clay City went on a 7-0 run, which was kick-started by a Kelly McCullough 3-pointer.
However, the momentum didn't maintain for the rest of the period.
After committing just four turnovers in more than 16 minutes of play, Clay City turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions, and the Thunderbirds took advantage, getting back within a 23-21 score with just one quarter to play.
Eels' coach Chris Ames said he preached ball control going into the game, and while he was pleased with how his team handled things, he knew lapses could always come back to haunt them.
"We have to be strong with the ball at all times," Ames said. "We just really have to take care of it."
From there, it was deja vu all over again. On North Central's first possession of the quarter, Ariel Hester saw her potential game-tying short range jumper roll in and out. The Eels took their second break of a near miss and again went on a run. Only this time, they made it stick.
McCullough hit her second three of the night to push the lead to 26-21. On the ensuing possession, Allie Miller hit an open lay-up, then made a terrific pass to an open Madison Booe, giving Clay City a momentum boost they would never relinquish.
Miller and Carmela Roeschlein led a balanced Clay City attack with 10 points apiece, while McCullough and Brielle Drelick added eight.
The Eels also had a sizable advantage on the boards, taking a 30-21 edge.
Ames was very quick to praise his teams' effort on the glass.
"Before the game we talked about how we had to put a body on them," Ames said. "Our rebounding was great. It was a very good effort by us defensively."
Roeschlein, Miller and Drelick led the team with six rebounds, while McCullough and Booe added five.
The Eels move on to the sectional championship, Monday night. The game was originally slated for tonight, but was moved back due to snow and an IHSAA rule which states sectional games cannot be played on three consecutive evenings.
Ames stated despite the pleasure he felt in his team's performance, there were areas in which they needed to improve, most notably free throw shooting (11-21), if they wanted to win the first sectional title in Clay City girls' basketball history. But above all, he stressed all his players had to be prepared to make an impact whenever the opportunity arose.
"I've gotta have five girls who want (to make a big play) at all times," Ames said. "Tonight we had it, and we'll need it again Monday."
Class A Clay City Sectional
North Central (32)
Brown 2 5-6 9, West 0 0-0 0, Kemp 6 3-5 15, Drake 1 0-0 2, Boyll 2 0-0 4, Hester 1 0-0 2. Totals: 12 8-11 32.
Clay City (41)
Roeschlein 3 3-5 10, Drelick 2 4-6 8, Reed 0 3-4 3, Miller 4 1-2 10, McCullough 3 0-1 8, Booe 1 0-0 2. Totals: 13 11-18 41.
3-point field goals -- NC 0-9 (Brown 0-4, West 0-2, Drake 0-3), CC 4-13 (Roeschlein 1-4, Drelick 0-1, Reed 0-2, Miller 1-3, McCullough 2-3). Total Rebounds -- NC 21 (Boyll 9, Kemp 5), CC 30 (Three with six, two with five). Team Fouls -- NC 23, CC 14. Fouled out -- NC Drake, CC McCullough. Turnovers-- NC 8 CC 11.