Times Sports Editor
The Clay City girl's basketball team is preparing for the weekend's Southwestern (Shelbyville) Regional a little differently than last year.
Just a year ago, the Eels claimed the school's first girl's basketball sectional championship and had a quick turnaround before facing Jac-Cen-Del in the regional opener, which turned out to be a classic despite the final result, a 38-37 win by Jac-Cen-Del.
Last season, the Eels won a delayed sectional championship against Shakamak on Tuesday night and were faced with preparing for an unfamiliar opponent with a short week.
"We've definitely had more time. Last year we won the sectional on a Tuesday and (Wednesday) would have been our first day of practice," Clay City coach Chris Ames said. "Everyone was kind of tired after the night before and the girls were excited from winning. It's been nice to have a couple of extra days to celebrate, but we've got a job to do on Saturday. It's just been a lot easier to not only get prepared as a team, but as a coaching staff."
The Eels are preparing for a team that is likely facing some of the same emotions.
The Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School, located in Indianapolis, is a public charter school for grades six through 12 that was created to prepare graduates to be accepted into selective colleges and universities according to the school's website. The girl's basketball team is in just its fourth year of postseason IHSAA eligibility and defeated Indianapolis Shortridge, 41-22, to reach the program's first regional.
The Lady Tigers bring a 14-5 overall record into the tourney and join Edinburgh (12-9) and Jac-Cen-Del (17-5) in the regional. Edinburgh is also in celebration mode after winning the school's first sectional and will meet Jac-Cen-Del following Clay City's 10 a.m. game with Tindley. Edinburgh's victory came over Southwestern, 56-49. The Lancers are coached by Bob White, who won three sectional championships while coaching Southwestern.
Jac-Cen-Del has the most successful sectional history, having won nine titles since 1996 and 15 overall. However, the Eagles haven't won a regional since 1982.
This time around, Clay City has the experience of regional play under its belt and returns four starters from last year's team that fell two points short of a chance to play for a regional championship.
Against Jac-Cen-Del last year, the Eels rallied from a 21-11 deficit in the second half and were within 34-30 when Allie Miller drilled a 3-pointer with 30 seconds remaining. Two free throws by the Eagles set the tone with 7.5 seconds left in the game. Carmela Roeschlein found Abby Reed open and she knocked down a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer. However, officials ruled that her foot was on the 3-point line and the Eels fell heartbreakingly short of overtime.
While Ames and his Lady Eels squad would love another crack at Jac-Cen-Del, the focus is on winning against Tindley.
"I'll tell you that they are going to watch tape tonight and they'll get focused real quick because Tindley is a real athletic team," Ames said during Wednesday's practice. "To get back, Jac-Cen-Del has to win their game and I talked to coach (Scott) Smith at the regional meeting and we were reminiscing about last year's fantastic game. It would be nice to play them again, but our main goal is to make sure we're playing Saturday night."
Thanks to John Harrell's outstandingly detailed website (www.indianagirlsbasketball.homestead.com) that chronicles high school basketball in Indiana, there is no shortage of information regarding postseason play.
Tindley has played one of the weaker schedules in the state in regards to all four classes. The Tigers have played the 389th strongest schedule, which means only four Class A teams have played a weaker schedule according to Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings. The Eels have played the 287th strongest schedule, which is skewed somewhat considering Clay City's conference was weak this season. White River Valley, Union, North Daviess and North Central had a combined record of 13-65. Throw in a pair of wins over a 1-20 Cloverdale team and that mark balloons to 15-105. However, the Eels also boosted its non-conference slate to include two games against a 15-8 Class 4A Bloomington North team, Class 2A No. 12 Brownstown Central (20-5), Class 3A No. 7 Sullivan (20-4) and Class A top-ranked Vincennes Rivet (24-0). Overall, the Eels faced 13 teams in a classification above their own and Clay City is 9-2 against teams from Class A this season.
Ames credited a tourney appearance in the rugged Eastern Greene holiday tourney with preparing the Eels for postseason action.
"We really tried to get into that Eastern Greene Tournament because it's four games played in two days," Ames said. "The great thing about it is that you had a little time to rest between games, it wasn't back-to-back. You'll have a little more time (at the regional) on Saturday and that's the good thing about playing the first game (at 10 a.m.). (The Eastern Greene Tournament) was good preparation."