Times Sports Editor
SHELBYVILLE -- The Jac-Cen-Del Eagles sent Clay City home disappointed for the second straight year, ending the Eels hopes for a girl's basketball state title with a 42-31 victory in the regional championship game.
The final outcome was a far cry from where the game stood at halftime as Clay City left the court at halftime full of confidence after a 16-point second quarter outburst left them with a 20-13 advantage.
However, the Eagles were without one of their key components for much of the half when 6'1 senior Alyssa Hammond went to the bench with 3:49 remaining in the opening period. Without her presence in the middle at both ends of the court, the Eagles were a much different ball club.
Jac-Cen-Del led 7-4 after the opening eight minutes and the Eels had hit just one-of-eight shots from the field. However, Clay City heated up quickly in the second period as Carmela Roeschlein hit her first four shots of the period and Brielle Drelick, fresh off a 28-point outburst in the Eels morning win over Tindley, scored a pair of buckets.
Clay City hit 64-percent of its shots in the quarter and went into the locker room with a seven-point advantage.
Jac-Cen-Del was a much more confident team to start the second half and got started quickly on its rally as Meagan Hughes nailed an opening 3-pointer and an Eels' turnover led to a bucket in the post from Hammond, who made her presence felt in a big way.
"That's been one problem we've had all year, really covering big people in the post. The Hammond girl does a great job getting position and we just had trouble handling her," Clay City coach Chris Ames said.
Hammond, held scoreless and without a rebound before halftime, responded with 10 points and eight rebounds after halftime.
The Eagles' Brooke Gilland scored off a nice pump fake and drive for a lay-up and the game was quickly tied at 20-apiece.
Meanwhile, Clay City was trying to drive to the basket and was drawing plenty of contact, but wasn't getting the benefit of any whistles or any hoops. Just hours after getting to the free throw line and making 25 shots, the Eels attempted just four free throws in the title game.
"I don't think it was a lack of trying to get to the basket. They did a good job of covering us up," Ames said. "There in the third quarter we just forgot how we got here. Probably we should have spread them out a little more."
The Eels opened the fourth quarter with a bucket from Allie Miller off an assist from Abby Reed and had a chance to tie the game after an Eagles' turnover. However, the Eels came up empty and Hughes responded with another 3-pointer followed by a score by Amber Crank and the lead had grown to 29-22.
Clay City would get back to within 29-26 following back-to-back buckets from Roeschlein, who had 20 points. However, Hammond came back to score off a lob to the post and Hughes hit two free throws with 3:22 remaining to push the gap back to 33-26.
The Eels continued to show their resilience however as Roeschlein nailed a 3-pointer, Hughes answered with a free throw. Roeschlein missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity, but after Drelick forced a five-second turnover from the Eagles, Roeschlein scored off a steal.
With a narrow 34-31 lead, it was Hammond again that scored in the post. Roeschlein missed another rare free throw attempt with 1:09 remaining. Jac-Cen-Del finished out the game from the line and hit all six of their attempts and nine-of-11 in the fourth quarter.
The Eels finish the season at 17-8 overall and had no seniors on their roster while Jac-Cen-Del improves to 19-5 and moves to the Bedford North Lawrence Semi-state to face top-ranked and unbeaten Vincennes Rivet (26-0) on Saturday at 4 p.m. Turkey Run (23-2) takes on Fort Wayne Canterbury (22-2) at Warsaw in the other semi-state game.
"(The girls) will be ready next year, I guarantee you. These kids are resilient kids. You couldn't ask for harder workers," Ames said. "They're going to be disappointed for a while, that's part of life, basketball and sports, anything you do. They'll be ready, they'll get the fire in their belly and be ready to go."
Southwestern (Shelbyville) Regional
Clay City (31)
Roeschlein 8-21 2-4 20, Drelick 3-10 0-0 6, Reed 1-1 0-0 3, A.Miller 1-5 0-0 2, Booe 0-3 0-0 0, Dayhuff 0-0 0-0 0, Riggs 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 13-40 2-4 31.
Hughes 2-5 5-6 11, B.Wagner 3-4 4-5 12, Sizemore 0-6 0-0 0, Gilland 1-1 0-2 0, Hammond 5-9 0-3 10, Huntington 1-4 0-0 3, Crank 1-1 2-2 4. Totals: 13-30 11-18 42.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 3-14 (Roeschlein 2-10, Reed 1-1, A.Miller 0-2, Booe 0-1), JCD 5-16 (Hughes 2-5, Huntington 1-3, B.Wagner 2-3, Sizemore 0-5). Total Rebounds -- CC 21 (Drelick 5, Booe 3, A.Miller 3), JCD 30 (Hammond 9, Gilland 6). Total Fouls -- CC 17, JCD 13. Turnovers -- CC 8, JCD 12.