Times Sports Editor
SHELBYVILLE -- As far as climactic finishes go, Clay City's regional basketball game on Saturday couldn't have had a more stunning conclusion.
The Eels rallied back from a 10-point deficit to start the fourth quarter against Jac-Cen-Del and Abby Reed seemingly hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to knot the score. However, the official closest to the play signaled that the shot was a two-pointer and left Eels' fans stunned after a 38-37 defeat.
Two free throws from the Eagles' Becca Wagner established a 38-35 lead with just 7.5 seconds left in the game. Clay City sophomore Carmela Roeschlein fed the ball from halfcourt to Reed, who stepped backwards and let the potential game-winner fly. As the shot went through the net, Clay City fans celebrated what appeared to be an improbable comeback. However, the official made his way to the scorer's table to signal that the shot was a two-pointer, not a tying three, which left coaches, fans and players wondering what if?
"I thought it was a three, maybe it wasn't. We've probably got a good angle on tape," Clay City coach Chris Ames said. "The (official) made his judgment call. He thought it was the right call. That's what happens in basketball. That's what makes it such an exciting game. Two teams come out and battle each other and unfortunately somebody has to lose. I thought (the 3-pointer) was good. I guess it wasn't."
The Eels trapped and pressed their way back into the game after the Eagles held Clay City to just six points in the third quarter while building as much as a 25-13 advantage. Brielle Drelick knocked down a jumper at the end of the third period to get the Eels within 27-17.
Kelly McCullough scored and a turnover by the Eagles led to a 3-pointer by Roeschlein to get the Eels within 27-24.
Wagner, the Eagles' leading scorer at over 17 ppg., had been held in check for much of the game, but her jumper pushed the gap to 31-26 and two free throws from Samantha White bumped the lead to 33-26. However, the Eels, who had been held to seven-of-35 shooting through three quarters, were beginning to find their stride.
McCullough hit a baseline jumper and a steal by Roeschlein led to a score by Drelick with 1:03 remaining. Trailing just 33-30, the Eels forced a 10-second call on the Eagles in the backcourt to get the ball back. Roeschlein's 3-pointer missed on the ensuing possession and Alissa Stolze hit one-of-two free throws to put the Eagles up 34-30.
This time for the Eels, it was Allie Miller who drilled a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to breathe new life into Clay City.
Wagner added two more free throws following a foul with 19 seconds left, but Roeschlein scored off a drive to get the Eels within 36-35. Clay City followed Wagner again and she coolly hit two more free throws with 7.5 seconds left to set up the dramatic final play.
"These girls never quit. This is a building process," Ames said of the comeback. "They would have quit on each other before and they really started playing together as a team, and as a coach that is the best thing you can ask for, is they just believe in each other. They have nothing to be ashamed about, they represented this town outstandingly.
"We challenge each other and, all year, they battled and battled and they didn't doubt each other," Ames continued. "Even the last play, Carmela Roeschlein, who is probably our best shooter, had enough faith in Abby Reed to throw the ball up to her. Carmela could have shot it, but she believes in her teammates. I hope people realize how much these girls believe in each other."
In the first half, neither team could find any sort of an offensive rhythm. Drelick game the Eels their only lead at 2-0 to open the game, but the Eels hit only four-of-24 shots in the first half. The Eagles however, couldn't gain much of a foothold as the Eels held them to five-of-20 shooting from the field
Clay City trailed 16-11 at halftime and Jac-Cen-Del came out of the break with a 3-pointer by Kristin Konradi and an offensive rebound and score from White to extend the gap to 21-11. Drelick broke the drought for the Eels with a rebound and putback, but Eagles' center Alyssa Hammond scored followed by a bucket by Wagner to build the biggest lead of the game at 25-13.
Afterwards, Ames commented on how his team was prepared to win the regional despite being the underdog to a 19-4 Eagles team.
"We were here for the whole day. That was our talk, we wanted to represent Clay City," Ames said. "I mean look at these fans. I hate it not for me, but for these girls because they deserve to be playing right now."
In the second game, Waldron (22-3) edged out University (15-8), 46-42 to advance to the regional title game where they defeated the Eagles 58-53 in overtime to move on to the semi-state against unbeaten Vincennes Rivet (25-0).
At Southwestern (Shelbyville)
Class A Regional
Clay City (37)
Roeschlein 2-12 0-0 5, Drelick 10-16 1-2 21, Reed 1-4 0-2 2, A.Miller 2-6 0-0 5, McCullough 2-9 0-0 4, Booe 0-1 0-0 0, S.Miller 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-47 1-4 37.
White 1-5 2-2 4, Konradi 1-4 0-0 3, B.Wagner 7-12 4-4 19, Gilliland 1-3 2-2 5, Hammond 1-8 1-3 3, Stolze 0-0 1-2 1, Sizemore 1-3 0-0 3. Totals: 12-35 10-13 38.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 2-12 (Roeschlein 1-5, Drelick 0-1, Reed 0-1, A.Miller 1-1, McCullough 0-4), JCD 3-11 (White 0-3, Konradi 1-3, B.Wagner 1-2, Sizemore 1-3). Total Rebounds -- CC 25 (Drelick 7, McCullough 4), JCD 32 (Hammond 11). Total Fouls -- CC 15, JCD 7. Turnovers -- CC 6, JCD 11.