CLAY CITY -- For the second game in a row, the Cloverdale High School varsity boys' basketball team found itself in a tight contest.
But unlike the Clovers' loss to Greencastle Friday, Tuesday's game at Clay City saw CHS come away with the victory.
Three Cloverdale players scored in double figures, as the Clovers captured a 56-52 win over the Eels on the road.
"What a gutty performance," Cloverdale coach Pat Rady said of his team after the game. "I'm really proud of the team tonight. It was just pure guts and determination from our players, and I'm proud to see that kind of desire."
The Clovers entered the fourth quarter trailing Clay City, 40-37, but opened the final period with two back-to-back baskets from Michael Neese, a lay-in with 7:20 remaining and a fadeaway jumper with 6:39 showing on the clock.
Clay City regained the lead less than a minute later on an inside bucket from Garrett Thatcher and stretched its advantage to four, 45-41, on Stephen Johnson's seventh three-pointer of the night.
Johnson led all scorers with 23 points, all from behind the arc, and shot 7-of-12 from the field.
The Clovers weren't finished, though, as Craig Blair connected on a three of his own to cut the Clovers' deficit to one, 45-44, with 4:47 to go in regulation.
Thatcher missed the first end of a one-and-one opportunity seven seconds later, and the Clovers were able to score on a jumper from Christian Cheatham that put the Clovers on top for good.
Clay City threatened once more, when Kyler Rhodes drained a three to make the score 53-52 with 55.2 seconds on the clock, but Blair scored the final three points of the game to seal the win for the Clovers.
Rady's pride in his team's performance Tuesday was matched by his admiration of the effort the Eels put forth.
"They're well-coached, they play extremely well at home, and (Clay City coach Grant) McVay had them ready. I saw them beat Eminence the other night, and I knew that we'd have to play a solid 32 minutes."
The game was close from start to finish, as the first quarter ended with both teams knotted at 11.
Clay City scored the game's first six points on back-to-back three-pointers from Johnson, but Cloverdale answered with a pair of buckets from Blair and Cheatham.
Johnson nailed another three to push the Eels' lead to five, but a jumper from Blair and five straight points from Cheatham gave the Clovers their first lead of the night.
Thatcher scored the final bucket of the quarter on a put-back.
Cloverdale took control early in the second quarter, opening the period on a 6-0 run to go up 17-11, but Clay City went on a run of its own later in the period, closing the half on an 8-0 run to carry a 26-22 advantage into the second half.
The Clovers grabbed control of the contest midway through the third quarter, as baskets from Seth Trinkle and Blair broke a 28-all tie to give the Clovers a four-point lead, but Johnson buried two consecutive threes to put Clay City back on top, where they would stay until the Clovers recaptured the lead in the fourth.
Blair led Cloverdale with 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field, while Cheatham contributed 11, going 5-of-10 from the floor.
Trinkle ended up with 10 points in the contest, and Neese added nine.
"I thought we had good balance, and defensively we looked really good at times," Rady said. "I'm just really pleased with the really gutty performance we had. You can't say too much about the effort."
The Clovers (3-2) will take the court again Friday when they host West Central Conference foe Monrovia for a 7:30 p.m. start.
At Clay City
Cloverdale (56) -- Neese 4-16 0-0 9, Blair 8-13 4-5 22, Cheatham 5-10 1-2 11, Shoulders 0-2 0-2 0, Dean 2-2 0-0 4, Trinkle 3-6 3-4 10, Hacker 0-0 0-0 0, Gregg 0-0 0-0 0. 22-49 FG 8-13 FT 56 TP.
Clay City (52) -- Bettenbrock 2-9 0-0 5, Moon 0-2 0-0 0, Johnson 7-12 2-2 23, Thatcher 9-19 0-1 18, Farmer 0-3 0-1 0, Jeffers 0-2 0-0 0, Rhodes 1-4 0-0 3, Kennedy 1-1 1-2 3, Defore 0-1 0-0 0. 20-53 FG 3-6 FT 52 TP.
Cloverdale 11 1118 16 -- 56
Clay City 11 15 11 15 -- 52
3-pt FG -- Cloverdale 4-14 (Neese 1-8, Blair 2-3, Cheatham 0-2, Trinkle 1-1), Clay City 9-22 (Bettenbrock 1-6, Moon 0-1, Johnson 7-11, Jeffers 0-1, Rhodes 1-3). Rebounds -- Cloverdale 28 (Neese 8), Clay City 27 (Thatcher 15). Total Fouls -- Cloverdale 10, Clay City 10). Fouled out -- None. Turnovers -- Cloverdale 13, Clay City 14.
Next Game -- The Clovers (3-2) will host Monrovia for a West Central Conference game Friday at 7:30 p.m.