Times Sports Editor
MONTEZUMA -- With sectionals looming next week, the Clay City Eels got just the kind of tune-up that they needed on the road against Riverton Parke. Except that is for the final result.
The Panthers got 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting from guard Aaron Hill in the fourth quarter to come out on the winning side of a late see-saw battle, 57-54.
Eels' coach Vance Edmondson wasn't happy with his team's performance on the defensive end.
"We didn't guard anybody tonight. That's the bottom line. We spent too much time waving at people as they went by. We do that next week and (Union's) Tyler Talpas might score 100 points," Edmondson said in reference to Tuesday's sectional opponent. "For the most part of the year, our defense has carried us. The last three or four games it hasn't shown up. That's always the first game I put on the board in pre-game is 'defense.' Move your feet and don't play defense with your hands. We're just not doing it right now. I was embarrassed the way we played tonight."
Clay City fell behind early and didn't take its first lead until 5:18 remained in the third quarter as a free throw and a transition bucket by Brylan Jones preceded a lay-in by Jake Tiefel put Clay City ahead 27-26. However, as they did all night, the Panthers responded with clutch shots to regain the lead.
Hill, who was scoreless in the first half, put himself in the scoring column and an Eels' turnover led to a free throw by first half start Matt Haltom. The Panthers held a brief 29-27 advantage before the teams began to take turns hitting key shots.
A lay-in by Hill put the Panthers ahead 32-29 and a 3-pointer by Brendon Bovair gave his team a 35-33 lead heading into the final quarter.
Clay City would regain the lead at 41-40 as Cesinger scored with 5:25 left in the game off a Panther turnover and a lay-in by Ben Denker put the Eels up 43-40.
That's when Hill got hot, red hot that is.
He would score off an offensive rebound, Gary Secuskie added two free throws and Clay City's Jones hit a big turnaround as part of his game-high 21 points.
Jones' shot put Clay City ahead 45-44, but Hill drained a 3-pointer, an Eels' turnover led to another jumper by Hill. Jones answered with a free throw line jumper for Clay City followed by a lay-up off an assist by Denker to tie the game at 49-all.
Hill made them pay with a clutch 3-pointer to extend the lead to 55-51.
"When we don't even go out and get a hand up on anybody, about anyone can hit them," Edmondson said. "I give them credit for knocking down the shots, but we stood and pointed at them instead of trying to actually close out or get a hand up one somebody. It was just a poor effort on our part tonight. If we're going to do anything next week we're going to have to get better."
Clay City had multiple shots at the other end, but couldn't get any to fall. Haltom extended the lead with two free throws with 24 seconds remaining.
Clay City got a 3-pointer from Blake Cesinger, who had 15 points. However, a potential tying 3-pointer from Denker fell short at the final horn.
For the Eels, Jones led the way with 21 points and 15 rebounds while Tiefel had 10. Hill led the Panthers with 19 points while Haltom had 13.
The Eels' junior varsity came up with a 29-20 victory to wrap up a 9-5 overall record as Colton Harbour had seven points. Evan Rogers and Easton Booe had five points.
The Eels drop to 13-8 overall while the Panthers improve to 11-10. Clay City faces Union (Dugger) in sectional action on Tuesday.
At Riverton Parke
Clay City (54)
Denker 2-6 2-2 6, Cesinger 5-9 4-4 15, Tiefel 4-5 2-2 10, Jones 10-19 1-6 21, Allen 1-4 0-0 2, Smith 0-2 0-0 0, Rhodes 0-1 0-0 0, Phillips 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-46 9-14 54.
Riverton Parke (57)
Secuskie 2-5 2-3 6, Hill 8-9 0-1 19, Haltom 4-12 4-5 13, Edge 2-3 0-0 4, Vauters 4-9 2-3 10, Bovair 1-3 0-0 3, Whison 1-1 0-0 2, Mathias 0-1 0-0 0, Stohler 0-3 0-0 0. Totals: 22-46 8-12 57.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 1-12 (Cesinger 1-2, Denker 0-3, Smith 0-2, Jones 0-2, Allen 0-2, Rhodes 0-1), RP 5-13 (Hill 3-4, Haltom 1-2, Bovari 1-3, Mathias 0-1, Stohler 0-2, Vauters 0-1). Total Rebounds -- CC 30 (Jones 15, Cesinger 5), RP 18 (Edge 5, Vauters 3). Team Rebounds -- CC 1, RP 1. Total Fouls -- CC 13, RP 14. Turnovers -- CC 17, RP 13.