Times Sports Editor
The Clay City Eels will get a stern post-holiday test for the third year in a row as the team heads to North Daviess High School for tourney play beginning Dec. 27.
The eight-team field provides teams the opportunity to test themselves with a format that provides three games in three days against some stout competition. This year, four of the teams are ranked in the top-10 of their respective classes. Clay City coach Vance Edmondson enjoys the challenge of a field that has a pair of teams that have been to four consecutive regionals.
"That's one of the reasons we wanted to get into it," Edmondson said of the competition level. "Brownstown Central is the biggest school in it. They are a 3A school. I think they are ranked in the top-10 (No. 7) and both Barr-Reeve and North Daviess are always in the top-10 in Class A. Orleans is in it and they are in the top-10 this year (Class A No.10). I think there are three or four 1A teams that are in the field and are ranked. So it's going to be some good competition for us."
The Eels will see the host school on Thursday, Dec. 27 in what will be the final game of the night at 7:30 p.m. However, the game is officially listed as game two following the first game between North Posey (1-5 overall) and Orleans (6-1 overall). The winner between the Eels and North Daviess will take on the winner of that first game at 6 p.m. Friday. The losers of the two games will take the court at 3 p.m. on Friday.
Other opening round games include a battle between Forest Park (2-3 overall) and defending tourney champion Brownstown Central (5-0 overall) at 4:30 p.m. with Barr-Reeve (6-0 overall) and South Knox (1-5 overall) taking the court at 6 p.m.
Clay City brings a 3-2 mark into the tourney and Edmondson believes his team will learn from the task of playing in back-to-back days against solid competition.
Clay City is participating in the tournament for the third straight season and have improved each year. The Eels lost all three games in the first year, but bounced back to win two-of-three last year.
Taking on the host school in the night game should provide for an electric atmosphere as the Cougars bring in a 6-1 mark and boast Class A's No. 5 ranking.
One of the more interesting match-ups in the game should be between the Cougars' star guard, Nick Crays, and the Eels' high-scoring Blake Cesinger.
The Eels get up and down the court, averaging over 61 ppg. while North Daviess likes to control the tempo.
"(North Daviess) is just one of those teams that is just solid all the way around," Edmondson said. "They don't do anything flashy. They aren't huge by any means. They just play good possession basketball. They have a nice point guard in Nick Crays. I think in this match-up on Thursday, you'll get to see two of the best point guards in Southern Indiana. They are just a solid club and it is going to be fun for us to play. Whoever can impose their style of play on the other, it will be fun to see who wins that."
Edmondson hopes that his team's pace can help neutralize any opponents' size advantage since the Eels' have just one player taller than 6'3.
"We just try and turn it into a speed game, a track meet. I'll tell you that the one thing we've done the last two weeks is really emphasize our defense. I think it showed last week in that Cascade game," Edmondson said. "Most nights I'm not worried about us scoring points. With Blake (Cesinger) back, and we've got some shooters on the wings and with our defense staying at that level, hopefully we can put some more wins under our belt. I think that speed might help offset some of the other teams' size."
One of the Eels' biggest strengths is having a wealth of shooters that can spread the floor as the team knocked down nine shots from beyond the arc against Cascade on Saturday. Evan Rogers has led the team with 15 3-pointers this season as the Eels have averaged seven made 3-pointers per game.
With such a talented field of teams, there are a number of players that fans can keep their eyes on during the tourney.
Brownstown Central has a bit of a local connection as Greencastle transfer Hayden Stuckwisch joined the squad last year and is coming off a nine-point game against Mitchell. However, 6'4 guard Brett McCory has starred this season and is coming off a rare, triple-double with 16 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds against the Blue Jackets. The output followed a 27-point game against North Harrison. Junior guard Chaz Schneider added 20 and 18 points last weekend with 6'4 Skylar Thompson providing 24 points in the win over Mitchell.
Barr-Reeve is led by 6'4 sophomore Addison Wagler, who averages 12.5 ppg. and over six rebounds per contest. Teammate Micah Bullock adds 11.3 ppg. to go with better than four rebounds.
Brownstown Central leads the state in average margin of victory at 42 ppg. and Barr-Reeve is the best defensively, allowing under 30 ppg.
North Daviess Classic Schedule
|Dec. 27||1||N. Posey vs. Orleans||3 p.m.||First|
|Dec. 27||2||Clay City vs. N. Daviess||7:30 p.m.||First|
|Dec. 27||3||Forest Park vs. Brownstown Central||4:30 p.m.||First|
|Dec. 27||4||Barr-Reeve vs. South Knox||6 p.m.||First|
|Dec. 28||5||Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2||3 p.m.||Consolation|
|Dec. 28||6||Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4||4:30 p.m.||Consolation|
|Dec. 28||7||Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2||6 p.m.||Semifinal|
|Dec. 28||8||Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4||7:30 p.m.||Semifinal|
|Dec. 29||9||Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6||3 p.m.||Seventh-place|
|Dec. 29||10||Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6||4:30 p.m.||Fifth-place|
|Dec. 29||11||Loser Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8||6 p.m.||Third-place|
|Dec. 29||12||Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8||7:30 p.m.||Championship|