Times Sports Editor
SWITZ CITY -- The Clay City Eels went toe-to-toe with once-beaten Eastern (Greene) in the first half of the Greene County Tourney opener for both squads, but the second half proved to be a completely different animal.
The Thunderbirds used a 14-1 run to start the third quarter and the Eels never recovered while falling 55-35. The loss sends the Eels into Saturday's consolation bracket at 11:30 a.m.
The gym at White River Valley has been mostly a house of horrors in regards to shooting the basketball for Clay City. The Eels played five games between last year's Greene County Tourney and the sectional and hit a combined 30 percent (63-of-208) in those games.
Thursday night wasn't much different.
Clay City held a 12-11 lead at the first stop as Blake Cesinger had six points and four rebounds. Eastern's Tyler Brough knocked down three 3-pointers in the opening period to keep Eastern close.
The second period proved much different as the Eels succumbed to an aggressive full court press by the T-Birds, turning the ball over nine times in the period. Meanwhile, Eastern used the extra possessions to get six points from Nathan Sparks and four apiece from Logan Frye and Kurtis Stille to take a 25-17 lead at the break.
"The one thing we talked about was coming out strong and we did that," Clay City coach Vance Edmondson said. "(Eastern) recovered well. We came out and punched them in the face and they counter punched, we staggered and didn't get up in the second half."
While the Eels hit just 2-of-9 shots from the field in the second quarter, the T-Birds hit 5-of-8 to gain control heading into the final period.
"We just let them wear us down and their pressure was a little more effective than I thought it would be from a standpoint of how many guards we play," Edmondson said. "Usually press doesn't affect us. We struggled with it tonight, made some bad passes and some bad shots. Hopefully they'll use this as a learning tool."
The shooting went from bad to worse in the second half after Cesinger sank a free throw to get Clay City within 25-18.
Eastern got a jumper from Stille and scores from Briar Martindale and Sparks to push the lead to 31-18. At that point, Cesinger picked up his fourth foul on a technical and went to the bench with 6:20 left in the quarter.
Eastern scored the next eight points to effectively put the game out of reach at 39-18. The Eels went with its reserves for most of the remainder of the contest.
Clay City, typically a solid perimeter shooting squad, missed all 17 of its attempts from 3-point range and hit just 13-of-46 (28 percent) from the field in the game.
"I thought we got some decent looks. It wasn't like we didn't get some open looks. We might have taken a few bad ones. We just don't shoot the ball very well down here," Edmondson said. "I don't understand why because it is basically a replica of our gym. It's something mentally we'll have to get over."
Greene County Tourney
Clay City (35)
Phillips 0-1 0-0 0, L.Cesinger 2-7 0-0 4, B.Cesinger 4-13 3-6 11, Rogers 1-6 3-4 5, Singer 1-3 0-0 2, Myers 0-3 1-3 1, Booe 0-1 0-0 0, Yocom 1-2 0-0 2, Miller 3-6 0-2 6, Denker 1-3 2-2 4, Ames 0-0 0-0 0, Wolfe 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 13-46 9-17 35.
Eastern (Greene) (55)
Frye 1-4 2-2 4, Brough 3-11 1-2 10, Martindale 2-4 2-2 7, Stille 4-4 0-0 8, Sparks 6-7 2-4 14, Sego 0-1 0-0 0, Henderson 1-3 2-2 4, Yoho 1-1 0-1 2, Eckerle 2-5 0-0 4, Hartman 1-1 0-1 2, Crowe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-41 9-13 55.
3-point fieldgoals -- CC 0-17 (Myers 0-2, L.Cesinger 0-2, B.Cesinger 0-4, Rogers 0-5, Denker 0-1, Singer 0-1, Wolfe 0-1), E 4-12 (Brough 3-8, Martindale 1-2, Frye 0-1). Total Rebounds -- CC 28 (B. Cesinger 6, Miller 5), E 32 (Stille 8). Team rebounds -- CC 5, E 5. Total Fouls -- CC 16, E 16. Turnovers -- CC 15, E 15.