Times Sports Editor
BLOOMFIELD -- Clay City's girls entered into the shark tank that is the Toby Yoho Classic Tourney at Eastern Greene on Tuesday night with the goal of improving as a basketball team and did just that.
Unfortunately, despite perhaps its best effort of the season, the Eels came up a bit short against a talented and deep, Class 4A Bloomington North squad, 45-38.
"I wanted to see if we were getting better and we are getting better," Eels' coach Chris Ames said. "We handled (Bloomington North's) pressure, but just made some ill advised passes and they scored and that's what good teams do, they score on you. (The Eels) are disappointed, but that's a 4A program and a good team. I think in a few days when we look back we'll be pleased with our effort."
The contest was a rematch of the season opening contest between the schools, a 37-23 win by the Cougars, but in the midseason battle, the Eels looked every bit the improved squad against a North squad that brought an 8-2 season mark into the fray.
The first half was played nearly to a deadlock as Clay City was able to send North standout forward Shaw-Nee Winningham to the bench with two early fouls. The Eels meanwhile clawed back as junior guard Carmela Roeschlein scored 14 of her game-high 21 points before break. The result was that the Cougars edged into the half with a narrow 18-16 advantage.
Opening the third quarter, Cougars' coach Alana Harrington elected to keep Winningham on the bench rather than take a chance on an early third foul.
The Eels took advantage and came out the aggressor.
With the Cougars trying to keep the ball out of Roeschlein's hands, Madison Booe nailed a short jumper from the baseline to knot the game.
"We came out and had talked about attacking and the thing is you have to have five girls willing to make a play and Madison Booe comes out, Bloomington North is trying to keep the ball away from (Carmela) Roeschlein, and we swing it to (Booe), she shoots it and makes it and that gave us a lot of confidence," Ames said.
That confidence continued to build as Brielle Drelick scored off an offensive rebound to give the Eels' their first lead of the game. Roeschlein followed by driving to the hoop for a score and drawing the foul. She would miss the free throw, but Drelick nabbed another rebound and got the putback for a 24-18 Eels' lead with 5:29 left in the period.
North sophomore Grace Luce scored off a turnover, but Allie Miller answered with a 3-pointer for the Eels to build the lead to 27-20.
However, the Cougars got a score by 6'0 Hannah Lukemeyer and then brought Winningham off the bench with 2:23 in the quarter trailing 27-22.
Instantly, the 5'9 Winningham added a spark on defense, making a steal as the Cougars went to full court pressure and her lay-in cut the lead to 27-24. A second Eels turnover led to a pair of free throws by Lukemeyer and the Cougars trailed just 27-26 heading into the fourth quarter.
With renewed momentum, the Cougars continued their pressure as Erin Kinzer nailed a jumper, Liz DeMoss added two free throws and Kinzer followed with a score off another Eels' turnover.
Over a four-minute span after Winningham returned to the court, the Cougars strung together a 10-0 run and grabbed a 32-27 lead.
"We had a great start to the second half and the game swung at the end of the third quarter, we turned the ball over our last two possessions and turned it over the first three possessions of the fourth quarter," Ames said. "Nine possessions between the end of the third and beginning of the fourth, (Bloomington North) scored 16 points on us. So they go on a 16-2 run."
Three missed free throws by Clay City allowed the Cougars' lead to grow to 38-27 before Roeschlein added a free throw to get the Eels within 38-28 with 3:40 remaining.
The Eels wouldn't wilt under the pressure however, they forced a turnover and Abby Reed scored and another steal resulted in a lay-in by Roeschlein. The Eels' own pressure allowed them to pick off another pass and Reed sank two more free throws to get Clay City back to 38-34. Reed hustled right back and tied up a loose ball that led to an offensive rebound and score by Drelick.
Suddenly Clay City was within 38-36 after an 8-0 streak.
However, Lukemeyer completed a three-point play with 1:21 to play and an Eels' miss at the other end led to two more free throws by Lukemeyer that Clay City was unable to recover from. With the lead back to 43-36, Clay City was unable to answer as Kinzer added two more free throws and Roeschlein capped the scoring with a final drive.
"They got out on us, but I give the girls credit, not making any excuses for our decision-making or our play, but we didn't fold," Ames said. "We cut it to two points and still had an opportunity to make a play. They got an and-1 call at the other end and that got them the momentum back that they needed."
Drelick had six points and eight rebounds for the Eels, Miller added five points, Reed tallied four and Booe had two for Clay City.
Toby Yoho Classic
At Eastern Greene
Clay City (38)
Roeschlein 6-9 9-11 21, Drelick 3-9 0-3 6, Reed 1-2 2-2 4, Miller 2-5 0-0 5, Booe 1-1 0-0 2, Dayhuff 0-0 0-0 0, Wolfe 0-0 0-0 0, Riggs 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 13-26 11-16 38.
Bloomington North (45)
Kinzer 5-8 3-4 14, Warfield 2-10 0-0 4, Lukemeyer 4-4 5-6 13, DeMoss 2-7 4-4 8, Winningham 1-2 0-0 2, Staggs 0-0 0-0 0, Luce 1-5 2-2 4, Nelson 0-0 0-1 0. Totals: 15-36 14-17 45.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 1-3 (Miller 1-3), BN 1-6 (Kinzer 1-1, Luce 0-2, Warfield 0-3). Total Rebounds -- CC 20 (Drelick 8, Roeschlein 3, Miller 3), BN 17 (Lukemeyer 3, Winningham 4). Total Fouls -- CC 18, BN 18. Fouled out -- CC (Reed), BN (Warfield). Turnovers -- CC 14, BN 9.