Times Sports Editor
CLAY CITY -- Friday night proved to be a historic night in the Eel Dome in Clay City as the Eels celebrated senior night in style by defeating Northview for the first time in school history, 49-47.
While seniors Ben Denker, Kole Smith, Jake Tiefel, Nathan Buell, Koby Rhodes, Brylan Jones and Tyler Allen were honored before the game, it was a junior that took center stage at the final horn as Blake Cesinger hit an off-balance jumper at the buzzer in overtime to send Eels' fans home happy.
Cesinger's heroics came after Northview senior Damon Hyatt had hit an impressive scoop shot in traffic off a drive to the basket that knotted the score with just 3.3 seconds remaining.
After a timeout, the inbound pass from the baseline went to halfcourt where it was deflected towards the Eels' free throw line. Cesinger had just enough time to corral the loose ball and get up a leaning shot that found nothing but net.
"It's amazing to do this for the seniors on their last game," Cesinger said following the game. "I knew we needed to do something big. I saw the pass was loose and I knew there wasn't much time left so I threw it up and made it. It's the best feeling ever."
Eels' coach Vance Edmondson was perhaps just as ecstatic as his players as the student section spilled onto the court to celebrate with their team. Edmondson described the final play.
The entirety of the game had every bit of the energy of a typical Clay City vs. Northview boy's basketball game. A near capacity crowd roared its approval for each side's success during the game. Neither squad could gain much of an edge in the game as an early 10-6 lead by Clay City following a 3-pointer from Denker and a steal and lay-in by Cesinger. However, Northview fired right back on 3-pointers by Joe Ball and Craig Peters to take a 12-10 lead.
The Knights had a 14-10 lead at the first stop, but it was Cesinger's seven points in the second period that helped the Eels out to a 24-22 lead at intermission.
Opening the second half, Northview tied the score on a bucket by Jim Mace, but Clay City answered the challenge with a score by Tiefel and another by Tyler Allen. Brylan Jones followed a leaner by the Knights' Dillon Reynolds with his own bucket. Cesinger scored on a drive down the middle of the lane and a score by Jones gave the Eels their biggest second half lead at 34-29.
The Knights weren't going quietly however as Peters answered with a pair of scores and two free throws by Hyatt put the Knights' ahead with 5:30 remaining in regulation.
Both teams played the final two minutes very cautiously as a score by the Knights' Chance Talbot with 1:05 left was answered by a clutch offensive board and two tying free throws from Cesinger with 30 seconds left.
The Eels had a shot to win the game in regulation as a Northview turnover gave them the ball with 12.8 seconds left. However, a final shot attempt found only rim.
In the extra session, Clay City took control early as Denker hit a pull-up jumper on his way to a nine-point effort. A Knights' turnover fed a score by Jones for a 44-40 Eels' lead.
Hyatt would follow with two free throws for the Knights, but Smith came right back with a huge play, drawing contact and making a shot for the Eels. Reynolds made his own crucial play for the Knights as he drained a 3-pointer to draw his team within 46-45.
With his team trailing, Hyatt took off down the lane and scooped in a game-tying shot for the Knights with 3.3 seconds left to set up Cesinger's big shot.
"(The win) means a lot to me, but it means even more to all of these people," Clay City's Denker said referring to the large Eels' crowd. "We wanted to do something big for us obviously, but also for the coaches and the fans. This is for the whole Clay City community. We couldn't have done it without them. This means the world to this community."
"It was a great high school basketball game and atmosphere," Northview coach Ernie Maesch said. "We had opportunities to win the game. We just didn't make the plays and we let them hang around long enough there in regulation. We needed to shoot the ball better, get a few more rebounds and a couple less turnovers. We were in position to win the game, we just didn't pull it out."
Reynolds had 17 points to lead the Knights as Hyatt tallied nine points and five rebounds. Peters produced eight points in the loss.
"I'm really proud of our seniors. Damon (Hyatt) and Dillon (Reynolds) playing tonight. They've been banged up, but they weren't going to miss the game for anything. They probably shouldn't have even played, but they had a good game. I thought it was one of the better road games we've played this year, but Clay City ended up winning it," Maesch said.
Clay City was led by Cesinger's 19 points and seven rebounds with Jones adding 15 points and six boards.
"That's a huge win," Eels' coach Vance Edmondson said. "This is the first time in my life I think that I'm speechless. Our kids played hard tonight and so did Northview. If you came tonight, you saw two great basketball games. Fortunately for us we were on the better end of it. Both teams made plays down the stretch, we were fortunate enough to have the ball last."
The junior varsity game was nearly as thrilling as a 3-pointer by Evan Rogers with 8.6 seconds left in overtime gave the Eels a 45-44 victory over the Knights.
Rogers had 15 points to lead Clay City followed by 12 from Josh Arsenal and nine from Stephen Phillips. The Knights were led by 17 from Christian Ellis, 14 from Nate Newton and eight from Tyler Rector.
Clay City improves to 13-7 this season with a Thursday trip to Riverton Parke. The Knights (7-13) host South Vermillion in the resumption of a postponed game on Wednesday night.
At Clay City
Hyatt 2-6 4-5 9, Reynolds 6-18 4-4 17, Talbot 3-5 0-2 6, Ninesling 1-1 0-0 2, Pestoff 0-2 0-0 0, Ball 1-2 0-0 3, Mace 1-3 0-0 2, Peters 3-7 1-2 8. Totals: 17-44 9-13 47.
Clay City (49)
Denker 3-11 1-3 9, Cesinger 8-11 2-3 19, Tiefel 1-3 0-0 2, Jones 6-9 3-5 15, Allen 1-3 0-0 2, Buell 0-0 0-0 0, Rhodes 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 1-1 0-1 2. Totals: 20-38 6-12 49.
3-point fieldgoals -- Nv 4-11 (Hyatt 1-3, Peters 1-3, Ball 1-1, Reynolds 1-4), CC 3-11 (Denker 2-4, Cesinger 1-3, Tiefel 0-2, Jones 0-1, Allen 0-1). Total Rebounds -- Nv 23 (Talbot 5, Hyatt 5), CC 27 (Jones 6, Cesinger 7). Team rebounds -- Nv 3, CC 2. Total Fouls -- Nv 13, CC 14. Turnovers -- Nv 13, CC 15.