Times Sports Editor
DUGGER -- Despite a pair of lopsided losses to open the season, the Union (Bulldogs) had plenty of fight in a home battle with Clay City on Friday evening. The Eels proved clutch at the free throw line down the stretch however and came through with a 74-71 victory to even their mark at 1-1 overall.
Clay City appeared to be poised to pull away to a comfortable margin of victory early in the fourth quarter as Logan Cesinger hit a free throw and Evan Rogers drilled his fifth 3-pointer of the game for a 61-45 lead.
The Bulldogs' Sterling Langley had other ideas however.
The senior guard knocked down a pair of 3-pointers sandwiched around a three-point play by Ethan Fettig to get Union within 61-51 before a bucket by Trey Bedwell. The Eels got a free throw from Rogers to briefly halt the run, but Fettig hit two from the free throw line and Langley buried a third 3-pointer to get his team within 64-61 with 1:10 left in the game.
With Union heating up from the field, the Eels had their chances at the free throw line down the stretch and Clay City made them count.
Cesinger, who had a game-high 28 points, knocked down a pair to keep his team ahead. The Bulldogs kept coming fast however as 6'7 Austin Robertson scored off a lob pass to the post. Cesinger added a free throw, but Fettig followed with a three-point play with 25 seconds remaining. Cesinger went back to the line and hit both for a 70-66 lead, but Langley stepped back for a long 3-pointer to get the Bulldogs within 70-69 with 14 seconds left in the game.
Cesinger, who hit 8-of-10 from the line in the fourth quarter, calmly followed with two more and Union's Zac Birdsong's potential tying 3-pointer was off the mark as the Eels held on to the victory.
"I thought when we got up by 13 points that our defense would hang on. We gave up some open looks to (Sterling) Langley," Clay City coach Vance Edmondson said. "We didn't really have him identified as a shooter, but when the guy hits a couple, we knew we had to get a hand up on him. We still continued not to find him. We came up big at the end and hit some big free throws. Logan (Cesinger) did a great job of being aggressive, wanting the ball in crunch time and for a sophomore that's great."
Clay City was able to open up a 34-26 lead at halftime as Rogers tallied eight of his 18 points, including two of his five 3-pointers in the game. Cesinger also had eight points before the half and the Eels were able to limit Robertson to just six points despite his height advantage in the post.
The third quarter belonged to Cesinger as Union was unable to stop his drives to the hoop. The sophomore nailed a 3-pointer and then took the ball to the rim for four lay-ups as part of a 12-point quarter.
The Eels held a 52-43 lead at the third stop as Clay City's defense had its own troubles stopping Union, which hit 7-of-14 shots from the field in the period to stay within striking distance.
In the early stages of the fourth quarter, Clay City got a 3-pointer from Rogers and a driving lay-up by Easton Booe. A free throw by Cesinger, who was 13-of-17 from the line in the game, and a pull-up 3-pointer by Rogers increased the margin to 61-45 before the Bulldogs made their final run.
"I told the kids after the game that we took big strides tonight especially for such a young team," Edmondson said. "To hit free throws the way we did tonight and to survive the way we did, I think some teams would have rolled over."
The Eels got nine points from Phillips and six from both Booe and Trevor Singer in the victory.
In the junior varsity contest, Clay City powered away for a 49-32 paced by a balanced scoring effort led by nine points each from Noah Denker and Travis Strauch. Landon Swearingen added eight along with A.J. Steward with Cody Dickson tallying seven.
The Eels are back in action Friday with a trip to Bloomfield.
At Union (Dugger)
Clay City (74)
Arcenal 0-3 0-0 0, Phillips 3-6 2-2 9, L.Cesinger 7-16 13-17 28, Rogers 5-12 3-8 18, Singer 2-6 1-2 6, Myers 0-1 2-2 2, Booe 3-9 0-0 6, Yocom 0-2 1-2 1, Miller 2-5 0-0 4, Ames 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-6 22-33 74.
Fettig 7-14 4-7 18, Birdsong 4-10 0-0 10, Langley 4-7 0-2 12, Hamburg 3-7 2-2 9, Robertson 8-11 2-2 18, Bedwell 1-2 2-3 4, Talley 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 27-46 10-18 71.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 8-19 (Rogers 5-9, Singer 1-3, L.Cesinger 1-2, Phillips 1-2, Yocom 0-1, Arcenal 0-1, Boo 0-1), UN 7-16 (Langley 4-6, Birdsong 2-6, Hamburg 1-4). Total Rebounds -- CC 35 (Rogers 6, Phillips 5, Cesinger 5), UN 33 (Robertson 13). Total Fouls -- CC 19, UN 25. Turnovers -- CC 16, UN 24.