By CAREY FOX
Times Sports Editor
JASONVILLE -- Any basketball coach will tell you that an effective defense will make playing offense a lot easier.
On Tuesday night, Clay City's girls flew around the court on defense, holding Shakamak to just 16 percent (7-of-45) shooting from the field and forced 23 turnovers on the way to a comfortable 57-26 Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference victory.
Coach Chris Ames knew that his team would have to bring a top defensive effort against a Lakers' squad that was led by 6'1 junior center Kelsey Pilant and senior guard Jade Gambill, who combined for 51 points in two Eels' wins last year.
"If we don't bring our defense we're very suspect on a lot of ends. We have to bring that defense every night and that starts with communication and flying around," Ames. "We got off to a good start defensively all night, but it was 2-0, 3-2 for a long time. It's one of those games where what happens in the next two or three minutes, could decide how this game is going to turn."
Despite forcing six turnovers in the first quarter and 13 in the first half, the Eels struggled to pull away thanks to a pedestrian 5-of-14 shooting performance from the free throw line. However, Clay City got off to a good start as senior Carmela Roeschlein scored on a pair of first quarter 3-pointers and had 13 of her 23 points before the break. Her output was tempered a bit by her own problems at the charity stripe as she hit just 3-of-8.
Clay City was able to build a 22-9 lead at halftime mostly because its defense held the Lakers to just two field goals over the first two quarters.
The Eels did a great job of keeping Gambill and Pilant quiet on the offensive end, with just one point scored between them in the first 16 minutes.
In the second half, the offense finally caught up to the defense.
Senior Brielle Drelick started the half with a hoop in transition and Abby Reed then found Allie Miller for a spot up 3-pointer. The Eels rushed out on a 10-2 run over the first 3:09 of the third period sparked by pressure defense and a strong transition game.
"We made a bucket, got a few turnovers and we were able to stretch it out and we were able to start playing with a little confidence on the offensive end due to our defense."
Ames was also happy with how the team moved the ball around to find the open shooter.
"We really shared that ball in the third quarter. We had people looking for each other, I'm really proud of how we played as a team. Everyone contributed tonight," Ames said.
Roeschlein's 3-pointer capped the run that pushed the Eels' lead to 32-11 and effectively put the game out of reach.
Drelick used her quickness to beat Laker defenders to the basket for 13 of her 21 points in the third quarter and Miller nailed her second 3-pointer of the game. Four different Eels scored in the quarter.
Clay City's defense remained strong throughout the second half as Pilant was held to just four free throws and five total points with no field goals. Gambill was 0-for-11 from the field and was scoreless.
The Eels were able to substitute over the final four minutes of the game as Clay City improved to 2-1 overall, 1-0 SWIAC, and travels to Rockville on Monday.
In the JV contest, Clay City sophomore Kylee Truax hit a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner as the Eels won a 35-34 contest.
Logan Ellinger led the scoring with 12 followed by Ashley Linton and Truax with six points. Emmie Kittle produced four points.
Clay City (57)
Roeschlein 7-14 5-10 23, Drelick 7-13 7-10 21, Reed 2-2 0-2 4, A.Miller 2-5 0-0 6, Booe 0-6 0-0 0, Dayhuff 1-2 0-1 2, Riggs 0-4 1-2 1, Wolfe 0-0 0-0 0, Durga 0-0 0-0 0, C.Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Linton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-45 13-25 57.
Gambill 0-11 0-0 0, Phipps 2-9 0-0 4, Gilbert 1-2 3-4 5, Martin 0-3 0-0 0, Pilant 0-6 5-6 5, Turnver 2-4 0-0 4, Hudson 1-5 2-3 4, Beck 0-2 2-2 2, Baker 0-2 0-0 0, Ahlin 1-1 0-0 2, Droop 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 7-45 12-15 26.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 6-16 (Roeschlein 4-9, Drelick 0-2, Miller 2-3, Booe 0-3), SH 0-6 (Gambill 0-3, Turner 0-1, Martin 0-2). Total Rebounds -- CC 28 (Miller 7, Reed 4, Riggs 3), SH 33 (Pilant 16, Gilbert 5). Total Fouls -- CC 13, SH 13. Turnovers -- CC 9, SH 23. Team Rebounds -- CC 3, SH 4.