Times Sports Editor
Continuity is a valuable commodity in high school sports and the Clay City girls' basketball team will enjoy it this season as all five starters return from a team that has won sectional titles in last two years. Last season the Eels reached the regional championship in a 17-8 campaign.
With so many players coming back, fourth-year head coach is focusing on re-fining the skills that his team already possesses in hopes of taking the next step in the postseason.
"It is an odd thing throughout my years of coaching, to have so many players returning," Ames said. "The positives are that it makes things very competitive at practice. This not only helps us prepare better, but also helps out our younger players to develop. They are pushed by the returning players."
Clay City brings back leading scorer Carmela Roeschlein, a senior that averaged 20.3 ppg. last year and reached the 1,000-point plateau for her career. The guard did a little bit of everything as the offensive catalyst, averaging 3.8 steals per contest, 2.4 assists per game and better than four rebounds despite standing just 5'5.
What grit on the court helped her shoot an astounding 196 free throws last year. Roeschlein knocked down 155 of them for a 79 percent clip. Roeschlein was also the team's leading 3-point shooter with 42 for the year as she hit just over 30-percent of her shots.
Getting to the free throw line late in games, and making those shots, was a big strength for the Eels last year as the team shot 70 percent as a whole (357-of-510).
Brielle Drelick enjoyed a semi-state run in volleyball this fall and the powerful, athletic senior is looking to do the same in basketball. She was second on the team last year at 12.6 ppg. and should reach the 1,000-point mark herself this year as she entered the season with 809 career points.
Drelick was also the team's leading rebounder as she averaged 5.6 boards per game last year and also tallied better than two steals per contest. She's also skilled at the free throw line as she shot nearly 73 percent (83-of-114) last year.
Reed is one of the scrappiest players on the squad and isn't afraid to take the big shot when needed. Both her and Miller averaged around five points per game, but have the ability to break out for bigger outputs when needed.
Reed was second to Drelick in offensive rebounding, which shows her ability to battle inside with the best of them. Miller was second on the team with 22 3-pointers last year and at 5'10, she gives the Eels some needed size as she rebounded at just under for caroms per game.
Rebounding is the aspect that Ames feels will be the key to his team's success this year as only Miller and sophomore Alex Wolfe top 5'9 on the roster. Senior Michaela Riggs is listed at 5'9 for the Eels and she grabbed 2.6 rpg. last season.
"For us to be successful, and we preach this every day, you have to rebound the basketball, take care of the ball, and communicate," Ames said. "You are going to get the other team's best shot. You have to be ready to compete every night, no matter who you are playing. That includes being ready to go in practice as well."
Junior guard Madison Booe looks like she is prepared to take the next step for the Eels and she could add yet another scoring option for Clay City. The 5'6 dynamo averaged 3.5 ppg. and a steal per contest while grabbing 2.5 rpg. Her quickness is a strength at both ends of the court and she's coming off a 10-point effort against Eminence on Friday night.
Junior Callie Dayhuff is another volleyball player that reached the semi-state along with Drelick and she sparks the team off the bench and makes the most of her time on both ends of the court. Junior Kaleigh Decker adds depth off the bench as she saw action in 16 games last year.
Other Eels that could make some contributions this year are freshmen Logan Ellinger, Emmie Kittle and sophomore Kylee Truax.
"With so many players back, your goal is to continue to improve. It would be silly not to say that we would love to have a run in the tournament," Ames said. "However, that being said, there are very good teams in our area that continue to improve as well. You cannot become complacent. You have to continue to work and improve. The saying goes that nothing is given, and everything must be earned."
Clay City will be battle tested throughout the season with a slate that includes 10 games against schools that are higher than the Eels' Class 1A. That doesn't include the Eels return trip to the Toby Yoho Classic at Eastern Greene Dec. 27-28. Clay City will be one of the smallest schools in a tourney that includes Class 3A No. 5 ranked Edgewood, defending Class 2A state finalist Brownstown Central, Class 2A No. 11 Hauser, Class 2A No. 17 Forest Park as well as Class A No. 14 Riverton Parke and Bloomington North in a 12-team field.
Overall, the Eels will face four other ranked teams during their non-tourney schedule, which includes Class 1A defending state champion, Vincennes Rivet along with state finalist Turkey Run and Class 2A No. 3 ranked Sullivan.
However, Ames feels that his team has not gotten complacent and continues to improve each day and is focused on another deep postseason run.
"As a whole, they have all improved tremendously. Their games have evolved each year. They have become better ball handlers, passers, and shooters," Ames said. "They have also become more physical as a team, as they have matured throughout the seasons. They are also able to quickly adapt to new situations that arise during the games."
Clay City (1-1 overall) continues its season on Tuesday night with a road trip to Shakamak for a conference contest.