Times Sports Editor
CLINTON -- If fans were looking for a word to describe Saturday's season opener between Clay City and South Vermillion's boys' basketball teams, there's a good chance that 'frenetic' would fit the bill.
Clay City pumped up 68 shots in the contest and South Vermillion added another 55, but it was the Eels that showed off a variety of firepower in scoring a 73-57 victory on the road.
"We knew that (South Vermillion) wanted to play that style and we were kind of sticking our toe in the water to see if we could play that style too," Clay City coach Vance Edmondson said of the frenetic pace. "We made some shots early, got out to a lead and maintained it. So I'm very pleased with how we played tonight."
Eels' fans also got a look at junior guard Blake Cesinger, a transfer from Terre Haute South, who made his debut in Clay Cit purple count.
Cesinger showed a quick step to the basket, a solid jumper and a knack for the art of rebounding to lead the Eels with an eye-popping 20 points and 21 rebounds.
He got rolling quickly with nine points and six rebounds in a 24-point first quarter for the Eels that saw Clay City open a 10-point margin.
Overall, he maintained a pretty good rebounding pace all night long despite having to battle with the Wildcats' 6'5 Phillip Harpenau inside. Cesinger had at least three boards in each quarter and had seven in the fourth period.
"It's a pretty solid night," Edmondson joked in regard to Cesinger's stat line. "I knew he had a lot of rebounds. I don't know what to say about him, he's a kid that plays hard on both ends of the floor. He goes after everything. I'm very pleased with how everyone played tonight, but 21 rebounds is a lot for a 6'1 guard."
The Eels averaged just 45.8 ppg. last year and didn't score more than 64 points in a game last season.
"(Lack of scoring) has kind of been our Achilles heel the last couple of years, being able to put points on the board," Edmondson said. "We ended up hanging 73 (points) tonight. I'll take that. If we can score 73 and have a good defensive effort like we did, I think we'll be pretty successful this year."
Denker was forced to the bench for much of the second quarter after picking up his second foul, but it didn't slow down his teammates.
Brylan Jones, a 6'4 senior, nailed a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter and had all 10 of his points before halftime. Koby Rhodes drained his only shot of the game, a 3-pointer in the second period and Kole Smith tallied his lone bucket and Cesinger produced seven points in the quarter.
Despite the Eels first half success with their up tempo offense, the 3-point shots were coming up a bit short in the second half. However, the Eels were able to drive and find open, cutting teammates while continuing to keep up the pace. Edmondson agreed though that his team might have lost its legs for the jumper after halftime. Clay City hit just 1-of-9 3-point attempts over the final two periods.
"I think we got a little tired," Edmondson said. "We talked about that after the game about having a little better shot selection. I think we missed some opportunities to drive the ball to the hole and we settled for jumpers because we had success in the first half. That's something that is easy to fix, we'll get back to work (today)."
South Vermillion was able to pick away at the Eels' lead led by junior Kaden Lawson, who had 12 of his 20 points after halftime. The Wildcats clawed to within 54-43 on a drive by Lawson in the third quarter. However, Denker answered with the Eels' lone 3-pointer of the half to extend the lead and Tyler Allen knocked down back-to-back jumpers to re-establish the Eels' double-digit advantage at 65-50.
Allen was also important in limiting Harpenau's offensive attack. Though the Wildcat forward had 17 points in the game, he had just five after halftime and the Eels' senior had 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field.
Overall, Clay City placed five players in double-figures in scoring in gaining the opening victory.
In the junior varsity contest, Clay City set the tone by hitting seven 3-pointers on the way to a 47-23 victory.
Six different Eels had at least five points with Paiden Myers nailing four 3-pointers for 12 points with Rhett Bigger tallying seven along with Josh Miller. Cade Newton added six and both Josh Arsenal and Logan Cesinger had five points.
Clay City is back in action on Friday night at home against Union (Dugger) with a 6:30 p.m. junior varsity start.
At South Vermillion
Clay City (73)
Denker 4-13 2-2 13, Cesinger 9-21 0-1 20, Tiefel 5-12 0-0 11, Jones 4-6 0-0 10, Allen 6-9 2-4 14, Smith 1-5 0-0 2, Buell 0-1 0-0 0, Rhodes 1-1 0-0 3. Totals: 30-68 4-7 73.
S. Vermillion (57)
Weyrauch 1-1 1-2 4, Sanders 3-8 0-0 7, Lawson 7-15 4-7 20, Vaughn 0-5 0-0 0, Harpenau 5-14 3-3 17, Branz 1-6 0-1 3, Hire 1-4 2-2 4, Luft 0-0 2-2 2, Hines 0-1 0-0 0, Waldrop 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 18-55 12-17 57.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 9-26 (Denker 3-8, Cesinger 2-5, Tiefel 1-4, Jones 2-2, Rhodes 1-1, Smith 0-4, Allen 0-2), SV 5-20 (Weyrauch 1-1, Sanders 1-5, Harpenau 2-7, Lawson 2-4, Hire 0-2, Hines 0-1). Rebounds -- CC 39 (Cesinger 21, Allen 5), SV 23 (Harpenau 9, Vaughn 5). Team Rebounds -- CC 4, SV 9. Total Fouls -- CC 16, SV 14. Fouled out -- SV (Harpenau). Turnovers -- CC 15, SV 16.