Times Sports Editor
GREENCASTLE -- The Clay City Eels were nearly perfect in the first and fourth quarters and that was enough to hold off a talented and athletic South Putnam Eagles team on Tuesday night for a 62-48 girls' basketball victory.
The Eels opened the game with a 25-point outburst paced by five 3-pointers from senior Carmela Roeschlein and a combined 8-of-12 shooting performance from the field. The torrid start gave Clay City a 25-12 lead at the first stop and the Eels held off a late charge by hitting all 13 of its foul shots in the final quarter to claim a 16-6 mark in the regular season.
The Eagles, a team that includes four players from the school's Class 2A state champion softball team last spring, wasn't about to give in despite Clay City's opening salvo. Eels' coach Chris Ames credited his team's passing for setting up Roeschlein to hit 5-of-6 3-pointers in the quarter.
"(South Putnam came out in that zone, a 1-3-1 and we've been working on it a lot this year. It just seems like we were making the extra pass. I know Carmela (Roeschlein) got off to a good start, but that's because we were really shifting it and looking for the middle," Ames said. "I thought everyone was looking to make the extra pass and being patient. When you get off to a start like that it's great, but the problem was that we weren't doing much on the defensive end, especially rebounding the basketball."
South Putnam's rebounding kept it in the game despite hitting just 35-percent from the field during the game and turning the ball over 21 times. The Eagles pulled down 37 rebounds in the game, including 10 from junior Leanna Masters and seven from senior Ericka Minor. Those numbers helped the Eagles take nine more shots from the field and remain within 33-19 at halftime.
"South Putnam is a very good team, an athletic team. They were very physical. We were lucky to come up here on their senior night and get off to such a good start," Ames said.
Offensive rebounding provided the spark for an Eagles' third quarter rally as Emily Dabkowski opened the half with a jumper, Minor scored inside and Dabkowski added two free throws. An offensive board and put back Masters capped an Eagles' rally to within 36-25. South Putnam had a chance to get closer, but Minor missed two free throws after an Eels' turnover.
"(Michaela Riggs) is an unsung hero," Ames laughed. "I say this a lot about our bench, 'they don't get the credit that they deserve.' We missed a foul shot, she got the rebound and the put back. She got fouled on a put back. She plays well off the bench and that gives her a lot of confidence and gives our team that little bit of an extra edge, the same with Alex Wolfe and Callie Dayhuff. I thought our coaching staff had South Putnam's game plan. They did an excellent job of getting us ready and prepared for them."
The Eels briefly extended their lead to 41-25 late in the third quarter, but Jenny Thompson drilled a 3-pointer, Masters scored off another offensive rebound to again close the gap to 11 at 41-30. Roeschlein was able to get back to the line for two free throws with three seconds remaining to stem the Eagles' run.
In the fourth quarter, Clay City opened strong with a three-point play by Roeschlein, who had a game-high 26 points. An Eagles turnover and a hustling Drelick, resulted in two free throws as she was fouled. Two more free throws by Reed pushed Clay City's lead back to 50-34 with 5:08 remaining and South Putnam would get no closer than 54-44 the rest of the way.
The main reason the Eels held off a late 10-4 run by South Putnam was its proficiency at the line. Roeschlein, Drelick and Reed were all perfect at the charity stripe down the stretch.
"We were looking to spread the floor a little bit. We didn't need to score any more, we just needed to get stops," Ames said of the final few minutes of the game. I didn't realize we hit that many foul shots, but it's good to get in a pressure situation and knock down that many in the fourth quarter. That was a key for us too."
In the JV game, Clay City wrapped up the regular season with a 28-9 victory that pushed their record to 13-2 overall.
Mahyale Durga had eight points, Wolfe had six, Logan Ellinger provided four and both Kylee Truax and Jordan Disch each had three points. Claire Miller and Emmie Kittle both tallied two.
The Eels (16-6 overall) are off until they host the sectional and Eminence on Feb. 10. South Putnam (12-7) face North Putnam on Friday night.
At South Putnam
Clay City (62)
Roeschlein 7-12 7-7 26, Drelick 4-13 8-11 16, Reed 1-1 5-6 8, A.Miller 0-6 2-5 2, Booe 0-1 2-2 2, Dayhuff 0-1 0-1 0, Riggs 2-3 1-2 5, Wolfe 0-0 1-2 1, Ellinger 1-1 0-0 2, Decker 0-1 0-0 0, Kittle 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 15-39 26-36 62.
South Putnam (48)
Minor 2-6 0-2 4, Dabkowski 3-10 3-3 9, Thompson 2-8 2-2 8, McHugh 1-1 1-4 3, Masters 4-9 2-3 10, Jones 1-4 0-0 3, Varval 1-3 0-0 2, Cash 1-4 2-2 5, Nichols 0-2 0-0 0, York 2-2 0-0 4, Birt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-48 10-16 48.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 6-13 (Roeschlein 5-8 Reed 1-1, Drelick 0-2, Miller 0-2), SP 4-17 (Thompson 2-8, Jones 1-2, Cash 1-2, Dabkowski 0-3, Minor 0-1, Varval 0-1). Total Rebounds -- CC 32 (Drelick 8, Miller 6, Riggs 5), SP 37 (Masters 10, Minor 7). Team rebounds -- CC 5, SP 3. Total Fouls -- CC 20, SP 24. Fouled out -- SP (Masters). Turnovers -- CC 15, SP 21.