Times Staff Reporter
SWITZ CITY -- A frustrating season ended in sheer excruciation for the Clay City boys basketball team, who squandered a 10-point fourth quarter lead in a devastating 60-57 loss to North Central in the second round of the WRV Sectional Friday.
Seemingly riding an impressive string of momentum, following back-to-back wins to close their regular season, the Eels built a 10-point lead at the halfway mark of the final quarter. The good fortune didn't last until the gun unfortunately, as Clay City self-destructed, committing a string of deadly turnovers, which led to a 16-3 Thunderbirds run, ending Clay City's season.
After a lay-up brought them within two with just under a minute to go, North Central called a timeout, and immediately forced a jump ball on Clay City's ensuing inbounds pass. Seconds later, Robert Horn got wide open and scored his first bucket of the game, tying things up at 56.
After a takeaway on the Eels' next possession, Jordan Stefancik scored an easy lay-up, giving the T-birds their first lead since the first quarter. Coach Vance Edmondson said turnovers were his teams' undoing.
"It comes down to us not taking care of the ball," Edmondson said. "We played great for about 28 minutes but we didn't do enough to win."
The Eels still had an opportunity to tie things up in the closing seconds. Unfortunately, Ben Denker's 3-point attempt fell short, and the game, as well as Clay City's season, came to an end.
Prior to the final four minutes, Clay City had not only been in control for most of the game, they had also seemingly fought off several North Central runs. The Eels not only entered the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead, but also re-established a double-digit margin twice in the first half of the fourth quarter when North Central had sliced it to five. Edmondson acknowledged great disappointment in defeat, but had nothing but praise for the effort of his players.
"(Our guys) were prepared, and normally how we played would have been enough to win the game," Edmondson said. "They played hard and I'm proud of them."
In his final game at Clay City, Logan Higgins had a thoroughly impressive game, scoring 17 points and pulling down nine rebounds. His board total trailed only D.J. Newton, a fellow senior, who grabbed 10.
With the loss, Edmondson's first season ends with a record of 5-16. Through ups (a 3-1 start to the season and the two consecutive wins to close it) and downs (the 13-game losing streak that came between the two high water marks) he said he was very happy with the effort he saw in his neophyte season in Clay City and was eager to continue his attempts to rebuild a program, which was nearly gutted by graduation after a sectional title one year ago.
Things don't get much easier, as Edmondson loses four players (Newton, Higgins, Tyler Jenkins and Matt Moore) next season. Despite these obstacles, he says he is confident he will be able to find elevated levels of success with his returning roster.
"We've got a good group of guys coming back next year," Edmondson said. "Right now we just need to take a couple weeks off, then get back at it and prepare for next year."
Class A White River Sectional
Clay City (57)
Newton 1-6 6-6 8, Decker 0-1 0-0 0, Denker 3-6 5-6 13, Higgins 6-10 5-9 17, Tiefle 2-4 3-6 8, Bridgewater 4-9 3-10 11, Moore 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 16-37 22-37 57.
North Central (60)
Swaby 4-12 0-0 10, Stefancik 5-14 1-8 12, Horn 1-1 1-3 3, Stanifer 9-18 3-3 24, Howkinson 1-5 4-7 6, Rehmel 2-9 1-4 5. Totals: 22-59 10-25 60.
3-point field goal -- CC 3-10 (Newton 0-3, Decker 0-1, Denker 2-4, Tiefel 1-2), NC 6-19 (Swaby 2-8, Stefancik 1-1, Stanifer 3-6, Howkinson 0-4). Total Rebounds -- CC 30 (Newton 10, Higgins 9), NC 25 (Stanifer 7). Team Fouls -- CC 22, NC 23. Fouled Out -- NC (Rehmel). Turnovers -- CC 21, NC 9.