Times Sports Editor
CLAY CITY -- The Clay City Eels have been looking for a successful equation on the boy's basketball court all season and what better evening to find it than senior night as the team recognized Tyler Bridgewater, Josh Decker and Justin Rodgers.
The Eels fell behind early, but put all the pieces together over the final three quarters to claim a 54-42 victory against Riverton Parke to cap the regular season. Clay City looks to win back-to-back games for the first time this season when they take on Eminence on Tuesday at the White River Valley Sectional.
For more than a quarter of play, the Eels had familiar problems, finding perimeter shooters on the defensive end.
Riverton Parke took full advantage by sinking its first five from 3-pointer range and taking a 23-10 lead early in the second quarter. The Panthers hit eight-of-12 shots from the field in the opening stanza and Jeremy Helton scored nine points to go with three consecutive 3-pointers from Garrett Lientz.
But the Eels made some changes, perhaps not as much physically as mentally according to coach Vance Edmondson.
"I think we finally started guarding somebody," Edmondson said. "We were ready for (Riverton Parke), we knew who the shooters were, we just didn't do a good job of getting out on them. We started changing that up about midway through the second quarter and at halftime that was one of the things we stressed and we kind of got it together."
Indeed the Eels did, on both ends of the court.
The duo combined for 20 points over the pivotal, final three quarters and Jones pounded the boards for 12 rebounds as well.
"We kind of lost sight of Brylan (Jones) and especially (Tyler) Bridgewater there for awhile," Edmondson said. "We really concentrated this week on getting it inside and those guys work well together in there. We're going to hopefully try and exploit that here the rest of the year. I was proud of how they played and its good to go into the sectional with a win."
Bridgewater opened the third period with a free throw and a three-point play and Ben Denker completed the rally with a 3-pointer to tie the game at 28-all with 5:15 to go in the quarter. After the Panthers' Wade Stites hit a 3-pointer to give the Panthers another lead, Jones nailed two free throws for the Eels and Bridgewater scored off an offensive rebound to give Clay City a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
Bridgewater followed with a bucket off a nice feed from Jones, Jake Tiefel added two free throws and a wide-open drive by Denker gave the Eels a 38-33 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The lead grew to 45-35 after a 3-pointer from Rodgers before the Panthers made a final rally spurred by some careless ball handling by the Eels.
Helton scored on back-to-back lay-ins and Matt Haltom's score got Riverton Parke within 45-41.
From there however, Clay City got a pair of free throws from Tiefel, who had nine points, and Denker followed with a successful drive. He would add three more free throws and Jones added two of his own to finish off a 12-point, 12-rebound game.
"He's a big guy. He's tough to get around and he does a good job of staying between his man and the basket. He just turns and puts a body on somebody and goes after it," Edmondson said of Jones. "Usually when he gets a big paw on it, he keeps it. He's been big for us the last month."
Denker tallied 12 for Clay City to go with 12 points from Bridgewater, who had four rebounds. Decker added four points and five rebounds while Rodgers tallied five points.
The Eels improve to 6-15 overall while Riverton Parke falls to 8-12.
In the JV game, the Panthers cruised to a 30-14 victory.
At Clay City
Clay City (54)
Denker 4-8 3-4 12, Decker 1-3 2-2 4, Rodgers 2-2 0-0 5, Tiefel 1-7 7-9 9, Bridgewater 5-10 2-3 12, Jones 3-6 6-7 12, Allen 0-0 0-0 0, Dyer 0-0 0-0 0, Rhodes 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-36 20-24 54.
Riverton Parke (42)
Yando 1-2 0-0 2, Lientz 4-8 0-0 11, Helton 9-15 0-0 20, Stites 2-6 1-2 6, Vauters 0-2 0-2 0, Yeargin 0-0 0-0 0, Daugherty 0-0 0-0 0, Secuskie 0-0 0-0 0, Haltom 1-3 1-2 3, Edge 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 17-39 3-6 42.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 2-6 (Denker 1-2, Rodgers 1-1, Tiefel 0-3), RP 6-12 (Lientz 3-5, Helton 2-2, Stiles 1-2, Haltom 0-2, Edge 0-1). Total Rebounds -- CC 27 (Jones 12, Decker 5, Bridgewater 4), RP 19 (Helton 4). Total Fouls -- CC 11, RP 16. Turnovers -- CC 14, RP 14.