Times Sports Editor
CLAY CITY -- The Clay City girl's basketball program had never tasted a sectional title in school history before claiming a championship over the Shakamak Lakers. They only had to wait one more year before sampling the sweet nectar of another championship on their home floor, knocking off the Lakers again, this time by a 52-38 count.
"(Repeating as sectional champion) means a lot to me for the girls," Clay City coach Chris Ames said. "They do so much more than what is asked of a normal teenager. We demand a lot out of them. So you want to see them have this success. For my family, they give up so much time, the fans come out and support us and I wanted (a title) so much for our fans and now we have a chance to go back to Southwestern (Shelby) and change what happened last year."
The Eels lost a heartbreaking, one-point decision to Jac-Cen-Del in the regional opener last year and junior guard, Carmela Roeschlein is ready to write a new chapter in program history.
"We came out wanting to win obviously, but we're really gunning for that regional," Roeschlein said. "We got a taste of what winning the sectional was like last year so now we want to experience the regional."
A frenzied student section and a large home contingent of fans was on hand to witness another title, which Roeschlein felt sparked the Eels down the stretch.
"It means so much (to have a big crowd)," Roeschlein said. "To see how many people are supporting us, it really means a lot."
Unlike the regular season match-up, a 23-point win by the Eels back on Nov. 16, the re-match was a battle nearly to the wire.
Clay City was able to carve out a 14-9 lead after the opening period as Shakamak was focused on taking away the penetration by Roeschlein, who had 32 points on Thursday in the semifinal. Though she hit an early 3-pointer, Roeschlein was held mostly in check over the first three quarters.
Shakamak took a four-point lead in the second period as Jazmine Martin nailed a pair of 3-pointers and sophomore Kelsey Pilant helped control the boards with nine rebounds in the first half.
Clay City was able to ratchet up the full court pressure to spark a late run to lead at halftime as Brielle Drelick battled in the paint during a physical battle inside. The junior snagged seven of her 12 rebounds in the first half as Clay City made use of several offensive rebound to maintain the lead.
"It seemed like when we got our second chance opportunities, we scored on them," Ames said. "Michaela Riggs played super off the bench, but it seemed every time we got an offensive rebound it was a put back."
Roeschlein broke free for seven points in the second period as Clay City held a narrow 25-21 lead at halftime.
After the break, the Lakers kept the game close on a 3-pointer by Jade Gambill, but Drelick followed with two free throws and Roeschlein closed out the period with two of her own to extend the lead to 35-28.
In the fourth period, the Lakers clawed closer as Pilant completed a three-point play to get within 40-35 with 3:13 remaining. However, Abby Reed made a key drive for a score and Roeschlein added a pair of free throws.
The Eels, who played 12 games against schools bigger in class, maintained their composure down the stretch, which Ames agreed, came with a tough schedule.
"When you play a bigger school, usually it's more physical and this was a physical game," Ames said. "When it comes down to the championship, no one wants to lose. I think it helped us with our composure."
"Playing against some of the bigger schools really helps us compete in games like this," Roeschlein added. "Coach Ames tells us all the time in practice about offensive rebounding because it can kill you sometimes. So we've really been focusing in practice on getting boards."
What really helped the Eels was their free throw shooting down the stretch as Clay City hit 11-of-14 from the line in the final period, which enabled them to finish the game on an 8-0 run to salt the victory away.
Roeschlein scored 22 points in the win and Drelick posted 19 points to go with double-digit rebounds. Reed tallied seven for the Eels. For the Lakers, Pilant had 13 points and 17 rebounds.
The Eels will take part in the Southwestern (Shelby) Regional on Saturday and will play at 10 a.m. against Indianapolis Tindley (14-5 overall), which defeated Indianapolis Shortridge 41-22 on Saturday.
Class A Clay City Sectional
Clay City (52)
Roeschlein 5-15 10-12 22, Drelick 6-15 7-9 19, A. Miller 0-5 2-4 2, Reed 2-4 3-5 7, Booe 1-3 0-0 2, Dayhuff 0-0 0-0 0, Riggs 0-2 0-0 0, Wolfe 0-0 0-0 0, C.Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Gossage 0-0 0-0 0, Decker 0-0 0-0 0, Truax 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 14-44 21-30 52.
Gambill 4-16 3-6 13, Gilbert 1-4 0-0 2, Fulford 1-4 0-0 2, Martin 3-8 0-0 8, Pilant 6-10 1-3 13, Turner 0-1 0-0 0, Phipps 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 14-43 4-9 38.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 2-10 (Roeschlein 2-7, Reed 0-1, A.Miller 0-2), SH 4-9 (Gambill 2-4, Martin 2-4, Fulford 0-1). Total Rebounds -- CC 29 (Drelick 12, Roeschlein 5), SH 37 (Pilant 17, Gambill 6). Total Fouls -- CC 12, SH 21. Fouled out -- SH (Turner, Gilbert). Turnovers -- CC 9, SH 22