Times Sports Editor
CLAY CITY -- Sometimes a little luck can go a long way and on Saturday night the Clay City Eels got just lucky enough to force overtime and then gain a 70-67 victory over visiting Eminence.
The win propels Clay City to its first 4-0 mark in more than 18 years.
The Eels needed a bit of luck at the end of regulation, trailing 59-56 with time quickly running out.
Clay City missed a flurry of 3-pointers with 30 seconds left and a rebound bounced out of bounds off the Eels' Blake Cesinger, which looked like might be enough to seal the deal when Clay City coach Vance Edmondson was whistled for a technical for arguing the call. However, in the Eminence celebration following the missed 3-pointers, members of the bench spilled onto the court before play was blown dead. Eminence was whistled for a pair of technical fouls, one for each player that came off the bench and onto the court.
The final result was that the technical fouls on Eminence over rode the one on Edmondson and resulted in two foul shots by Clay City and possession of the ball.
The Eels' Ben Denker stepped to the line, hit both free throws with 21.7 seconds left and Brylan Jones sank the tying free throw on that trip down the court to force the extra session.
Clay City coach Vance Edmondson admitted that his team got a bit lucky considering his mistake.
"I kind of lost my head there for a minute. I thought Blake (Cesinger) got fouled on the rebound and instead they called it out on him. As I was taking my jacket off they called me for a technical foul," Edmondson said. "Fortunately (Eminence) got a little excited and a couple of players jumped on the court, which actually worked out well for us. One of those times it's better to be lucky than good."
In the overtime, Clay City was simply good after falling behind 65-62 on a pair of free throws by Eminence's Grant Lewis. Jake Tiefel followed with a score for Clay City on an assist by Brylan Jones. Two more free throws for Eminence, this time from Shelby Moss, pushed the lead back to three at 67-64.
No worries for the Eels however as Ben Denker, who had a team-high 26 points, drilled a clutch 3-pointer with 1:09 left to tie the game at 67-all.
With the game hanging in the balance, Jones made a steal at halfcourt and fed Tiefel, who was fouled and hit both free throws. Denker would add another free throw with 29 seconds left and Blake Ford's 3-pointer at the buzzer drew rim for Eminence.
"Brylan (Jones) came up big at the end when he needed to," Edmondson said of his 6'4 senior. "Of all of the guys, I'm happy for him because that steal at the end. He's worked so hard on the defensive end this year and over the summer. So for him to get that steal was big."
Clay City's Eels gained control in the second quarter as Cesinger dominated with eight of his 17 points. Gore, playing with two fouls, was matched up with the Eels' junior and Clay City took advantage to grab a 34-29 lead at the break. The lead could have been much bigger had Clay City hit its free throws, missing seven in the first half.
"Other than free throws, we hit some big shots," Edmondson said. "What it comes down to for us is our free throw shooting. You aren't going to win too many games when you shoot 18-for-35. If we shoot like we normally do, we win by 15 points and we're not even talking about it. We've got to be able to step up and hit those free throws when it counts. We'll be shooting free throws (in practice) on Monday," he quipped.
Eminence continued to creep closer in the second half after Clay City's lead grew to 45-39 after a free throw by Jones. Holley scored off an offensive rebound and Ford drilled a 3-pointer for Eminence to close the gap to 49-46 heading into the fourth quarter.
The lead see-sawed in the final period as Eminence guard Brad Peters scored on a pair of drives before a 3-pointer by Tiefel put Clay City up 54-52 with 4:55 remaining.
Lewis answered with a bucket with under three minutes remaining to tie the game and Gore's sixth 3-pointer of the game looked like it might be the game-winner when Clay City turned the ball over on an offensive foul with 59 seconds remaining.
A questionably quick 3-pointer by Ford gave Clay City another shot with 42 seconds left in regulation, but it turned out that technical foul shots would be the most important shots for Clay City.
Jones was pivotal down the stretch for the Eels, scoring seven of his 14 points in the fourth quarter or overtime. He also had six boards. Cesinger added eight rebounds to lead the team with Tyler Allen adding seven. Tiefel had seven of his 12 points in the final 12 minutes.
"I think this weekend was good for us,' Edmondson said of wins over Bloomfield and the Eels. "After having some convincing wins the first two weekends, having back-to-back tough games. Our kids showed some heart this weekend and gutted out some wins."
Clay City's junior varsity also won, picking up a 31-20 victory led by 12 points from freshman Logan Cesinger and six from Josh Miller.
Next up for Clay City (4-0 overall, 2-0 SWIAC) travels to Vincennes Rivet on Friday for a 6:30 p.m. JV start.
At Clay City
Moss 1-2 2-2 4, Gore 10-18 2-2 29, Wagner 2-8 1-1 5, Ford 4-10 0-0 9, Lewis 2-3 2-2 6, Goss 0-1 0-0 0, Ray 0-0 0-0 0, Peters 4-7 0-0 8, Holley 3-5 0-0 6. Totals: 26-53 8-10 67.
Clay City (70)
Denker 8-15 5-7 26, Cesinger 8-16 0-7 17, Tiefel 3-6 5-6 12, Jones 3-7 8-10 14, Allen 0-7 1-3 1, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Buell 0-1 0-2 1. Totals: 22-52 18-35 70.
3-point fieldgoals -- Em 7-19 (Gore 6-11, Ford 1-3, Moss 0-1, Wagner 0-3, Peters 0-1), CC 8-21 (Denker 6-9, Cesinger 1-4, Tiefel 1-3, Jones 0-2, Allen 0-3). Total Rebounds -- Em 28 (Holley 7, Lewis 5, Wagner 4), CC 29 (Cesinger 8, Allen 7, Jones 6). Team Rebounds -- Em 5, CC 1. Total Fouls -- Em 20, CC 12. Fouled out -- Em (Wagner, Peters). Turnovers -- Em 14, CC 11.