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Clay City boys looking for return to winning ways

Friday, November 25, 2011

The 2011-12 Clay City boys' basketball team includes: (back from left) Ben Denker, Tyler Allen, Brylan Jones, Nathan Buell, Blake Cesinger, Colten Harbour and Steven Phillips. (Front from left) Koby Rhodes, Joshua Arsenal, Kole Smith, Jake Tiefel, Rhett Bigger and manager Michael Brooks. [Order this photo]

Times Sports Editor

The Clay City boys' basketball team is looking for a return to the winning side of the ledger this season after struggling to five and six-win seasons the past two campaigns. The Eels posted a 6-16 mark last year, but returns some of the tools that enabled them to show some improvement over the final month of 2011.

The Eels bring back full-time starters Ben Denker and Jake Tiefel from last year's squad and have 6'4 big man Brylan Jones back as well. Third-year Eels' head coach Vance Edmondson believes that the returning experience along with a solid summer season will benefit his squad.

"I thought we played better down the stretch last year, with two full time and two part-time starters coming back it should give us some confidence going into this season," Edmondson said. "We had a good summer, we played in four tournaments and got some younger guys valuable playing time."

Denker is a 5'10 senior guard that averaged 13.5 ppg. and four assists and returns to run Clay City's offense.

"Ben has to be a leader, we will look to him to score and distribute the ball this year," Edmondson said of Denker.

Jones could be perhaps the biggest piece of the puzzle this year as he brings the size that the team values and the senior can also benefit the perimeter game as well, which could help bring opposing teams' forward/centers away from the basket.

"He is a guy who can play inside and step out and shoot the 3-pointer, he could be a match up problem for a lot of teams this year. Looking for big things out of him," Edmondson said.

The Eels also bring back the 5'9 Tiefel, who averaged 9.5 ppg. along with 6'2 senior Tyler Allen, who contributed five ppg. and 4.5 rpg.

"Tyler Allen and Jake Tiefel are returning starters who expect to play big roles for us this year on both ends of the floor," Edmondson said.

Overall, Clay City has plenty of experience with a six-man senior class to choose from on game night.

"Nathan Buell, Koby Rhodes, Kole Smith who are all seniors who will see playing time this year along with juniors Rhett Bigger and Colton Harbour," Edmonson added of his cast of players.

Buell is a 6'3 senior with Rhodes being a 5'8 guard and Smith also holding down a guard spot at 5'8.

Clay City adds in Terre Haute South transfer Blake Cesinger, who is a 6'2 junior that adds versatility and needed size for the Eels.

"Blake has been a nice addition to our program, he brings versatility and a great work ethic to our team," Edmondson said. "He can play a guard or forward spot and can guard any position on the floor."

Also on the varsity roster are 5'10 sophomore Josh Arsenal, 5'6 junior Rhett Bigger, 5'10 sophomore Steven Phillips and 6'1 junior Colten Harbour.

The Eels allowed just 52.5 ppg. last year, but struggled to score enough more often than not with an offensive average of just 45.8 ppg. However, Edmondson feels that the Eels' success still begins on defensive.

"It will start on the defensive end for us," Edmondson said. "We have to play solid team defense and with our lack of size, be able to rebound. If we can do those two things we can be successful this year."

Clay City remains in the super-sized Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference, which is a nine-team behemoth that includes plenty of historic rivalries.

Eastern Greene is the defending champion after posting a sterling 23-3 overall mark and an unbeaten conference mark on the way to a regional championship berth. The Thunderbirds lost 49-44 to Forest Park in the title game. Clay City fell in the sectional opener to Eminence to end their season.

The Eels open the season tonight on the road at South Vermillion beginning with the 6 p.m. junior varsity contest.

2011-12 Clay City varsity basketball schedule

Tonightat S. Vermillion7:30 p.m.
Dec. 2vs. Union (Dugger)8 p.m.
Dec. 9vs. Bloomfield7:30 p.m.
Dec. 10vs. Eminence7:30 p.m.
Dec. 16at Vincennes Rivet7:30 p.m.
Dec. 28-30Graber Post ClassicTBA

At North Daviess

Jan. 3-7Greene County InviteTBA
Jan. 13at Eastern Greene7:30 p.m.
Jan. 14at Cloverdale7:30 p.m.
Jan. 20at Sullivan7:30 p.m.
Jan. 27vs. N. Daviess7:30 p.m.
Jan. 28vs. WRV7:30 p.m.
Feb. 3vs. Shakamak7:30 p.m.
Feb. 9at North Central7:30 p.m.
Feb. 14vs. Linton7:30 p.m.
Feb. 17vs. Northview8 p.m.
Feb. 23at Riverton Parke7:30 p.m.