Times Sports Editor
The Clay City boys' basketball team (15-8) is hoping to have a busy Saturday at the Martinsville Class A Regional beginning with a noon contest against the Hauser Jets (16-6). The Eels' game will follow the regional opening contest at 10 a.m. between Edinburgh (21-2) and University (18-4). The winners will meet that evening in the championship game at 8 p.m.
The Eels are hoping to pack a lunch and stay awhile in Martinsville, but will have to tangle with one of the state's top scoring teams in the Jets.
Hauser comes into Saturday's regional averaging 70.3 ppg. this season, which is the 15th highest in the state regardless of class. Coached by Bob Nobbe (234-128) in his 16th season with the school, the Jets won the school's first state title of any kind in 2006. The program also reached the first round of the regional last year where it lost to Winchester.
Leading the team this season is Adam Miller, a 6'7 point guard, who has seen action at all five positions this year. Miller is practically a legacy at Hauser as he's the last of five brothers, including two that played collegiately. His brother Gabe Miller, helped lead the 2006 team to the title as a junior and he went on to play at Anderson University.
Not surprisingly, with the skills of a guard in a 6'7 body, Miller provides plenty of stats as he leads the team at 19.8 ppg., 9.8 rebounds per contest to go with five assists and more than two steals as well.
Much like Clay City, the Jets have three double-digit scorers as 6'8 junior Nick Johnson produces 11 points per game and five boards. Athletic guard Reid Thayer, who will play baseball at Vincennes next year, scores 13.2 ppg. and is a key to the transition game that Hauser pushes.
"I think we're going to try multiple things and hopefully find something that works for us early," Edmondson said. "We'll probably start in man (defense). It's gotten us this far. Match-ups are going to be a problem because of their size, but we feel like we're up to the task. We've also got some things to go to if those don't work out."
The Eels also present their own problems at the defensive end with their versatility and ball handling, which will be important as the Jets implement a variety of presses and traps to feed their transition.
"I think if we're deliberate and cut down the possessions in the game, I think that'll benefit us. (Hauser) wants to get up and down and score in the 70's," Edmondson said. "I think we can do that, but I'm not sure we can do that, win a game and turn around and play another game Saturday night. Being deliberate, patient and looking for the best shot is what is going to be best for us."
Versatility has been important for Clay City's success this year, as point guard Ben Denker has produced 11.3 ppg. and over three assists per contest. Fellow senior guard Jake Tiefel has played some of his best basketball down the stretch and has averaged eight points per game and rebounds well in clutch situations. His ability to penetrate along with 6'2 junior Blake Cesinger gives opponents problems.
Cesinger has been a pivotal addition to the roster this year as his 13.6 ppg., 8.4 rpg. and two steals per game can attest. He leads the team with nearly three offensive rebounds a game and teams with the front court of Tyler Allen and Brylan Jones to pound the glass.
Jones, a 6'4 senior, pours in 12.7 ppg. and grabs over six rebounds as well. Allen adds four points and four rebounds for the Eels.
Edmondson feels that his team's ball handling is an important factor in Saturday's opening match-up against Hauser's size.
"If nothing else it might help us. We've been a tough match-up problem for teams all year if they man us," Edmondson said. "If (Hauser) decides they want to man us then we can spread them out and let Ben (Denker), Jake (Tiefel) and Blake (Cesinger) do their thing. Hopefully (Hauser's) bigs will have to help over so Brylan (Jones) and Tyler (Allen) can knock down some shots. Just as they are a tough match-up for us, I think we'll be a tough match-up for them too."
Perimeter shooting could also be an important facet to counter Hauser's size as Clay City has knocked down 100 3-pointers this year. The Eels can ring it up from beyond the arc when they are on as Clay City has hit six or more 3-pointers in a game in better than a third of its games.
"Anyone that has watched us or followed us all year knows that we can struggle against the zone (defense)," Edmondson said. "I think we have to make some shots early. If we can get off to a good start, make some shots from outside, I think we can get some confidence. They are good shooters, sometimes we just don't have good shooting nights."
Good old-fashioned defense is what brought the sectional title to Clay City last Saturday as the Eels held White River Valley to just 19-percent shooting from the field in the championship. Edmondson agrees that the Eels will stick to what got his team to the regional.
"We talked about 'dancing with our partner' and defense is what got us to the dance," Edmondson said. "We did a heck of a job Saturday night. This weekend it will be a little different style because (Hauser) will take the first decent shot they can get whether it's a good one or not. They'll throw it up and want to turn it into a track meet. We'll just have to be patient and work even harder on both ends."
In the opener, fans can get a look at electric 5'11 point guard Jordan Pickett of University High School. Pickett has averaged better than 26 ppg. this season to go with five rebounds and three assists and three steals per game. Edinburgh is led by 6'3 senior Kyle Wuest (18.5 ppg.) and 6'8 senior Jordan Burton (16.5 ppg.) Both are 1,000-point career scorers. Point guard Corey Burton, a 5'9 senior, averages 10.5 ppg. and seven assists while 6'2 senior Patrick Kennedy is in double-figures at 10.2 ppg.