Times Sports Editor
Experience. There is no substitute for it especially as girls' basketball teams begin their post-season competition in sectionals around the state. For the Clay City Eels, the two-time defending sectional champions, experience will be a key advantage as the team seeks a third straight regional berth.
The Eels return the same starting five from last year, and while much has been made of the high-scoring duo of Carmela Roeschlein and Brielle Drelick, the rest of the team are no strangers to the pressures of the postseason.
Seniors Abby Reed and Allie Miller team with junior Madison Booe in the starting five and have a combined 19 postseason starts and a total of 23 appearances in sectional/regional contests. Clay City coach Chris Ames can be confident that his team knows what he is looking for while they are on the court.
"This time of year, experience does help in most cases," Ames said. "We've been able to add things this year, and the reason is because we have such a seasoned group of individuals in our seniors, juniors and sophomores. It seems that if you can just get one year into our system, you pick up on things a lot easier. I think it's even carried over to our JV team having such a good record. When you are around good competition every day it can only help."
Miller has evolved into a valuable offensive threat as well as a strong rebounder that pulls down better than five per game, which hasn't gone unnoticed by her teammates.
"Allie is our big man, she's out rebounded me and Carmela both. She's big on rebounds. She's great at finding us on the fast break. She'll get a rebound and immediately look for us on the break," Drelick said of Miller.
Ames also pointed out that Miller is a threat on offense as well and has grown in that role during her career.
"Coming into the season, we needed Allie Miller to get to the free throw line more and attack the basket because she can really stroke the basketball," Ames said. "There's days out there that she hits two or three and really stretches the defense. She's done a great job. She understands the game better than any player that I've ever had. She's a smart player."
Reed might be one of the smaller players on the court along with junior Callie Dayhuff, who comes off the bench, but both play key roles for the Eels, who have gone a combined 33-14 the past two seasons.
Drelick agreed that Reed is a driving force, not just in games, but behind the scenes as well.
"Whenever things are tough in practice and we're tired, Abby is the one that never complains and is always getting it done," Drelick said. "She's got that little jump shot that almost always goes in for us. She's tenacious on defense, and she's always got her hands up. She's really good on defense."
Dayhuff also drew complements from her coach as well as Roeschlein for her play this season.
"Callie is maybe our smartest defender in what we want to have done in our system," Ames said. "She can hit some big shots; she hit a huge one last year and has hit some lately against North Daviess and has got to the line a few times. She's a very capable shooter."
"Callie is one person that, when we put her in, teams might think that they can help off of her (on defense), but she can knock down a 3-pointer, a steal or get a lay-up," Roeschlein said. "She constantly hustles and is always helping out."
Booe has played an important role dating back to her freshman season with Clay City and has been a starter in the sectional during both her sophomore and junior years.
"Madison Booe has been fun to watch evolve," Ames said. "When she came in as a freshman, she saw some time on the varsity; she got some good minutes in the postseason, but was more of a driver and one to pass it before looking for a shot. Now she's an outside threat and is very confident in shooting the ball and driving the basket. She's a smart defender and we put her on a team's best offensive player because she knows where she needs to be at all times."
Drelick also made note of how Booe's rebounding has improved and the 5'6 junior has averaged more than a steal and an assist per game for her team.
"(Madison) is good at rebounding too. She drives to the basket, doesn't care and doesn't hold back. We really need that sometimes. She brings toughness, and she has good hands and helps us out a bunch."
Coming off the bench, 5'9 Michaela Riggs might be one of the quieter players on the Eels, which could be why she's drawn the affectionate nickname, "Monk," from her teammates. However, her play speaks loudly as she's grabbed close to four rebounds per contest in limited minutes and has improved offensively as well, along with sophomore Alex Wolfe.
"We always joke with Michaela that she's so graceful with everything she does," Roeschlein said. "Whenever she's running, she's graceful. She didn't used to be able to finish in practice during drills, but now she gets into position and always hits it. We have confidence in her. She's so fast and does such a great job. She's one of the post players that we have that has no problem driving it hard up the floor. It's really awesome to have a 'big' that can do that."
Ames noted a key stretch during a holiday tourney at Eastern Greene this year where he began to see marked improvement from his 'bigs.'
"That Toby Yoho Classic was a big key for us," Ames said of the holiday tourney. "We were able to play (Riggs and Wolfe) in those four days. They had big games down there, they started finishing and got a lot more confident. We see it here all the time, but after Christmas, even the girls started to see it. Michaela Riggs, if she shoots it four times, she's going to hit three. Alex has done a better job of rebounding and defending this year."
Not to be overlooked is the rest of the Eels' bench as Kaleigh Decker, Claire Miller and Kylee Truax, who have a combined seven postseason games of action. The group puts even more depth at Clay City's disposal.
Ames also noted the hard work of his assistant coaches in preparing the team daily.
"A big key to our success has been our assistants," Ames said. "They go above and beyond a lot of assistants. They are always out scouting and always at practice. We use them a lot for drill work and we couldn't ask for a better group of assistants. I guarantee you, without the coaching staff I have, we wouldn't be where we are today. Just a big thank you for what they do for our team and our girls. They are irreplaceable."
Clay City begins the chase for another trophy on Friday night at home in a 6 p.m., sectional match-up with Eminence.