Times Sports Editor
CLAY CITY -- Winning never gets old and the Clay City girls' basketball team has done plenty of that over the last few years.
On Saturday night, the Eels scored their third consecutive sectional championship with an impressive defensive performance that earned the team a 46-26 victory over Shakamak. The victory improves the Eels to 18-6 overall and advances the squad to the Southwestern (Shelbyville) Regional on Saturday where Clay City will get a re-match with last year's regional foe, Jac-Cen-Del. The Eels win halted a six-game winning streak for the Lakers.
One night after Clay City coach Chris Ames lamented a less than impressive defensive effort in a win over Eminence, the team responded by holding the Lakers to just 8-of-34 shooting from the field and single digit scoring over the first three quarters.
Perhaps most impressive was Clay City's defense of Shakamak's center, Kelsey Pilant. After Pilant scored three early points, the 6'1 junior was held scoreless with just one rebound over the final three periods of play.
"We worked on it this morning," Ames said of defending the post. "Everybody we put in there tonight did what they were supposed to do. We put on the board, be the best player at your position and that's what I thought we did tonight."
The Eels got nine opening quarter points from Brielle Drelick in building a 16-6 advantage at the first stop.
"I thought a huge point tonight was in the second quarter when we had our bench in and we extended the lead. I give a lot of credit to our kids. They really wanted it. Nothing is every given to you. You have to earn it. We definitely earned it."
With a comfortable 17-point lead at halftime, the Eels extended their lead on a 3-pointer from Allie Miller, who had 10 points. Carmela Roeschlein followed with an offensive rebound and a score as the lead grew to 32-12. Abby Reed followed with a jumper as Clay City was cruising with a 34-15 lead after three quarters.
Even with Drelick limited with foul trouble and a nagging injury to her leg, the Eels weren't fazed and got contributions from the whole team.
After the Lakers' got a 3-pointer from Jazmine Martin, Michala Riggs scored off a perfect feed from Miller. Clay City's senior forward followed that up with another assist to a cutting Reed, who had eight points.
"We cut to the basket and we had unselfish players making the passes. It's nice when you have a 5'10 girl that can handle the ball and look over people," Ames said of Allie Miller. "She's smart and she was just great. We were a little disappointed in our team last night and how we played defense. They really came out tonight and played as a unit, one through 15 girls on the roster. It's a credit to them, even if they didn't play tonight. It's a credit to them that they came to practice every night and bought in. They played Clay City defense."
After hoops from Reed and Madison Booe, Martin hit another 3-pointer for the Lakers, but Miller completed a three-point play of her own. Booe then found Reed streaking to the basket for a 45-25 lead and Clay City was able to get their bench players several minutes to close out the contest.
"It's definitely exciting every single time," Reed said. "I get emotional every time. There was definitely a little pressure. We knew Shakamak was going to come out and give it their best. In the end though, we came out on top.
"Looking back, (the workouts) were so hard, but it is so worth it," Reed continued. "Everything was so worth it. I've been playing with all five of these seniors since I was really little. It's been great growing up with them."
Drelick led the Eels with 13 points, but five players had at least four points including nine points and six boards from Roeschlein. The Eels dominated the boards with a 34-11 advantage.
"I'm just thankful to have the opportunity to have good kids, who want to get better every day and every year," Ames said. "It's not easy. I give credit to the girls, their families our coaching staff gets them ready. This crowd was unbelievable tonight."
Class A Clay City Sectional
Clay City (46)
Roeschlein 4-9 0-0 9, Drelick 4-9 5-7 13, Reed 4-9 0-0 8, A.Miller 3-5 2-3 10, Booe 1-2 0-0 2, Dayhuff 0-0 0-0 0, Wolfe 0-0 0-0 0, Riggs 2-2 0-0 4, Kittle 0-1 0-0 0, Truax 0-2 0-0 0, C.Miller 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-40 7-10 46.
Gambill 4-11 2-4 11, Phipps 1-3 0-0 2, Gilbert 0-0 4-4 9, Martin 2-10 0-0 6, Pilant 1-5 1-3 3, Fulford 0-3 0-0 0, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Beck 0-0 0-1 0, Baker 0-2 0-1 0. Totals: 8-34 7-13 26.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 5-11 (Roeschlein 1-4, Reed 2-3, A.Miller 2-3, Truax 0-1), SH 3-10 (Martin 2-5, Gambill 1-1, Phipps 0-2, Baker 0-1). Total Rebounds -- CC 34 (Roeschlein 6, Riggs 4, Drelick 3, Miller 3), SH 11 (Gambill 3). Team rebounds -- CC 4, SH 4. Total Fouls -- CC 13, SH 13. Turnovers -- CC 15, SH 12.