Times Sports Editor
The Clay City girls' basketball program is hoping to build upon a sectional championship foundation that was laid last season. The Eels claimed the first title in school history for the girls' team and came up mere inches short of a first round regional win against Jac-Cen-Del.
The Eels finished up 13-9 last year and were peaking at the right time as the postseason arrived. Clay City advanced to the Southwestern (Shelby) Regional where the Eels fell 38-37 to a 20-4 Jac-Cen-Del team as Abby Reed's potential tying long-range shot at the buzzer counted for two points and not three, which would have sent the game into overtime.
Four of the five postseason starters return this season, which means the Eels have the weapons and now, some experience to perhaps make another run at a championship.
Much like last season, the Eels' success will be predicated on their defensive tenacity as Clay City lacks any significant size up front.
Junior Allie Miller, one returning starter, is the tallest player with any experience at 5'10 and she became a key player as she scored 5.5 ppg., while grabbing 2.4 rpg with one steal per contest. Miller did knock down 20 3-pointers last season.
This season her role expands as she'll be looked to for more scoring and rebounding for the Eels as freshman Alex Wolfe is the only Clay City varsity member over 5'9. Miller has already gone 3-for-6 from 3-pointe range to start the season as the Eels have gone 2-1 over the first two weeks of action.
Joining Roeschlein will be classmate, junior Brielle Drelick, who does a little bit of everything for Clay City.
Drelick, perhaps the Eels most tenacious and aggressive player, was second on the team at 12.1 ppg. last year and led the team at nearly six rebounds per contest. Her athleticism will be pivotal for the Eels this season as she also averaged close to two steals per game last year.
Reed is another member of the junior class, which is six players strong on a Clay City squad that features no seniors. Reed was nearly the hero in last year's regional, but returns after averaging four points per game. The scrappy 5'5 guard averaged close to two steals per game last season and is another returning starter for the Eels.
Madison Booe joins the starting rotation this season after playing meaningful minutes last year off the bench. Booe averaged a couple of points per game last season and has upped that so far this season with games of eight and 11 points against Shakamak and Eminence.
Sophomore Callie Dayhuff (5'5, guard) has already provided a spark this season with a seven-point effort in a win over Shakamak. Michaela Riggs (5'9 forward) comes off the bench and had an eight-rebound contest against Eminence on the road. Danielle Gossage (5'6) has also been an important factor in the three games that the Eels have under their belts.
In order to take the next step as a team this year, Clay City will have to take care of the details, which includes improving their free throw percentage and taking care of the basketball. The Eels shot 62-percent (279-of-447) from the line last year and turned the ball over, on average, 15 times per game.
In the early stages of this season, Clay City has hit 40-of-64 (63-percent) from the line over three contests while turning the ball over 16 times per game while being outrebounded by five per game.
For Clay City to surpass last year's success, the Eels will have to cut down on unforced errors and play each game as if it's a postseason game. After playing Class 4A power Bloomington North tight for three quarters to open the season this year, the Eels proved they can compete with bigger, more athletic squads, now they must show that intensity each night.