Times Sports Editor
The Clay City girls' basketball program has provided its community a thrilling run the past several seasons. More than 70 games have been played by a senior class that already has its place in the annals of school history, but the final chapter remains unwritten. The seniors have reaped the spoils of victory 56 times over their four-year careers, including six sectional victories and two regional wins. However, a passion for a regional title remains amongst this group that will see a familiar nemesis this afternoon.
The Jac-Cen-Del Eagles have ended the Eels' season the last two years in regional competition and the school also knocked off the Clay City boys' team in the 2009 regional under coach Grant McVay. So this Eels team has some unfinished business though coach Chris Ames admits his team is simply happy to be back at Southwestern (Shelbyville) High School to compete once more.
"Honestly, I don't think it matters when we play," Ames mentioned. "We are just happy to play somebody in the regional again, it just happens to be Jac-Cen-Del."
There aren't any shrinking violets amongst this Clay City team as all five starters return from last year's regional trip. Seniors Carmela Roeschlein, Brielle Drelick, Abby Reed, Allie Miller and junior Madison Booe all started last season when the Eels knocked off Indianapolis Tindley in the morning game before falling 42-31 to the Eagles in the title game. Drelick and Roeschlein have each made the Hoosier Basketball Magazine list of the top-100 senior girls' basketball players in Indiana.
Roeschlein is approaching the 1,500-career point plateau and Drelick is rocketing past 1,100 herself, but the Eels are built upon a foundation of familiarity as the senior group has toed the hardwood together since grade school. This group of stalwart Eels doesn't know how to quit. Every direction they look on the court is a familiar face that has been there before on the same regional level. The bench is no exception as forwards Alex Wolfe, Michaela Riggs and guard Callie Dayhuff each played key roles in the regional last year.
The Eagles graduated four players from last year's regional team, but feature a very balanced offense led by senior guard Emily Hungtington (11.5 ppg.) and 6'0 center Kelsey Pilz (9.0 ppg. and 5.5 rebounds per game). Jac-Cen-Del has 6'0 forward Megan Obermeyer (4.1 ppg., 4.0 rpg.) and 5'10 Amber Crank (3.6 ppg. and 5.4 rpg.) at their disposal as well.
Facing a team with more size than they do is nothing new to the Eels according to Ames.
The Eagles have a pair of seniors in Meagan Hughes and Morgan Young that average seven points per game and lead the team in 3-pointers. Young leads the way with 38 3-pointers and hits them at a 34 percent clip with Hughes sinking 23 from beyond the arc and topping the squad at close to three assists per contest.
Against the Eagles, Ames knows his team has to be ready to go from the moment they take the court.
"The big concern is coming out ready to go from the tip. You can't be hesitant. You have to play to win," Ames said. "We need to have five players on the floor at all times, playing their part, and playing Clay City basketball."
The morning game at 10 a.m. features the host Trojans of Southwestern (Shelbyville) (14-8) taking on University (7-14).
Southwestern features a pair of talented sophomores in Annie Thomas (16.4 ppg.) and Oda Shackelford (16.0 ppg., 9.0 rpg.). Shackelford has hit better than 64 percent of her shots this season and has 55 blocks. Seniors Tayler Britton (9.7 ppg.) and Katelyn Smith (6.5 ppg.) anchor the lineup.
"I know they have Annie Thomas and Oda Shackelford, which are both supposed to be good. However, they have some other players that can really shoot the ball and are quick," Ames said. "Oda is another good post player we will have to find a way to defend. They play an up and down game. They can really shoot and get to the basket. If they get it to the post, it will not be good for us."
The opening game between Southwestern (Shelbyville) and University begins at 10 a.m. with Clay City and Jac-Cen-Del to follow. The championship game is slated for 8 p.m.