Clay City girls close out strong in SWIAC win over Bloomfield
By CAREY FOX
Times Sports Editor
CLAY CITY -- The seniors taking the court for both Bloomfield and Clay City did not have to be reminded of the importance of the girl's contest on Thursday night. Not only was sole possession of second-place in the Southwestern Indiana Conference at stake, but a bit of momentum as the final three weeks of the regular season were at hand.
The Eels were also anxious to put some distance between themselves and the memory of sectional losses to the Cardinals the past two seasons.
Playing in front of their home fans in the Eel Dome, Clay City played a rugged brand of defense throughout and got plenty of clutch shots to come away with a 52-39 victory.
Talking with Bloomfield head coach Ron Knepp prior to the game, Clay City coach Chris Ames mentioned that defense was the topic of discussion between the coaches with more than 200 combined wins.
"Coach Knepp said that it was a game that was going to be won on the defensive end and not so much offensive," Ames recalled. "We got a lot of stops in that third quarter and that carried us over."
However, in order to be in a position to make a third quarter run, Clay City had to survive a 3-point onslaught in the opening quarter by freshman Kylee Shelton.
The 5'10 guard hit all three of her 3-point attempts in the quarter and had six in the game on the way to a team-high 21 points. Leading scorer Malea Toon added another for the Cardinals, who led at the first stop 12-10.
"Bloomfield came out on fire. I thought they were contested, but (Bloomfield", hit great shots for three. The (Kylee) Shelton girl did and (Malea Toon)," Ames said. "We hung in there. We weren't really on fire, but we knew it was going to be a really good team between two teams. I thought both teams played hard."
Clay City was no slouch from the perimeter as Andrea Steward knocked home two early 3-pointers and senior Madelyn Ames added another to keep the Eels close.
The Eels made a second quarter move to take a one-point lead with Hayley Walton making some key hustle plays and adding all three of her points to the cause. Senior Kinley Dickson added a bucket as well for a 21-20 lead at the midway point.
Ames pointed out the often unsung importance of some of his players that maybe don't show up in the scoring column.
"She is Cool Hand Luke," Ames said of Walton. "She just doesn't play outside of things she cannot do. She settles us on the back end of the press break. She keeps her head up and is fantastic. The kids that don't get enough credit are people like her, Hernandez, Jamie Grassick played well for us the other night and our seniors like Kinley Dickson. I'm real pleased with where we are headed."
The 10th-year head Eels' coach had to be pretty pleased with where his squad was headed midway through the third quarter.
The defensive effort was reaching its peak for Clay City, which forced 15 Bloomfield turnovers in the middle two periods alone.
Avalee Jeffers opened the half with two free throws for Clay City before Shelton countered with a 3-pointer. Lauryn Myers responded for the Eels with a bucket and Jeffers stole a pass and went coast-to-coast for a 27-23 Eels' lead. Another Cardinals' turnover led to an offensive put back for Jeffers, who had 23 points and eight boards.
"I was really pleased with how we played in the second half. I thought our kids did a good job of settling down and looking for each other to get open shots," Ames pointed out.
There was plenty to be pleased about as Clay City countered each Bloomfield hoop. A Shelton 3-pointer was followed with a corner trey by Ames. Jeffers grabbed a loose ball and got the put back and Myers hit a pull up jumper for a 36-26 Eels' lead.
Toon, who came into the game averaging 20 points per game for the Cardinals, was held to just six points through three quarters as Clay City built its lead.
"We ask a lot of our guards. Aysiah Hernandez coming off the bench, Lauryn Myers and Andrea Steward, they chase a lot for us. They defend the better athletes and they did a great job," Ames said. "Those three don't get enough credit and they were great out top for us tonight."
Jeffers went into close out mode in the fourth quarter for Clay City, going hard to the rim and getting to the free throw line. The senior hit 5-of-6 free throws in the first minute and half of the fourth period. The Eels had a 44-31 lead after Ames hit her fourth 3-pointer. The Cardinals made a brief rally as Toon followed a jumper by Emily Neighbors with a three-point play.
The 5-0 run by Bloomfield got the Cardinals within 47-39 with 2:34 on the clock, but Jeffers finished out the scoring with the final five points.
The Eels fell in the junior varsity game 33-31 despite 12 points from Emily Hyatt and 11 from Kendra Wertz. Tara Arthur added five points.
Clay City improves to 13-7 overall and 4-1 in the SWIAC with a road trip for a 6 p.m. varsity game at Owen Valley on Saturday.
At Clay City
Clay City (52)
Steward 2-2 0-0 6, Walton 1-3 14 3, Myers 3-8 0-0 6, Ames 4-11 0-0 12, Jeffers 7-12 9-11 23, Hernandez 0-1 0-0 0, Dickson 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 18-38 10-15 52.
England 0-2 0-0 0, Shelton 7-11 1-1 21, Neighbors 2-4 0-0 4, Toon 5-16 2-2 14, Kilzer 0-1 0-0 0, Small 0-1 0-0 0, Walls 0-1 0-0 0, Pinnick 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 14-36 3-3 39.
3-point field goals -- CC 6-14 (Ames 4-10, Steward 2-2, Hernandez 0-1, Myers 0-1), BL 8-16 (Shelton 6-8, Toon 2-8). Total Rebounds -- CC 22 (Jeffers 8, Steward 5), BL 23 (Toon 6). Total Fouls -- CC 11, BL 11. Turnovers -- CC 11, BL 20.