In the championship game of the Eagle Holiday Classic, it came down to one final drive for the host Eagles, unfortunately the leather found iron as their final effort came up short. The Eagles lost to Clay City 47-45 and moved to 1-7 on the season.
"Man, I'm so proud of the kids and the effort they gave," South Putnam head coach Brian Gardner said. "It's amazing how far we've come in just two games. Part of the reason why some of our early games (were losses), we've been close but we've not given ourselves a chance to win.
"Tonight we gave ourselves a chance to win; we did the little things that we had to do to put ourselves in that position and that's all you can ask from kids," Gardner commented.
The Eagle faithful were introduced to a newly confident South Putnam squad that, from the moment they took the floor for warm-ups, oozed a new self-assurance that winning was now a reality.
Clay City's Will Kennedy found his groove in the second quarter, scoring nine points to lead the Eels. Will time expiring, Boswell drove the baseline, slid between two Eel defenders and was fouled as he scored. After the free throw, the Eagles went to the bread trailing by one 22-21.
South Putnam had struggle during the season with putting together four quarters of consistent play, on Saturday Gardner thought his squad made another stride in the right direction.
"I thought we still had moments in quarters but we didn't have an entire quarter that way. We just had two or three minute spurt instead of a six or seven minute spurt which is another sign of us growing as a team," Gardner said.
In the third, Clay City began to pull away from the Eagles and built a five-point lead going into the final quarter. Where on the Eagles withered in these situations, tonight they thrived.
South Putnam stared at a five or six point deficit throughout the quarter and as the clock ticked away it was time for the Eagles to show their grit.
The eagles steadily chipped away at the eels' lead and cut the lead to three as Boswell hit a driving shot along the baseline with 1:20 remaining. For every Clay City charge, the Eagles had an answer.
Welty connected from three-point territory with 24 second remaining to bring the Eagles within two at 45-43. The Eels held to a 47-45 lead with five second remaining, just enough time for the Eagles to have a chance.
After the Eels' Kevin Cook hit a free throw, South Putnam senior Michael Sebanc took the ball up the court and sliced through the Clay City defense. As the clock registered one second, he elevated for his attempt, the South Putnam crowd slid to the edge of their seats in anticipation, but his shot bounced off the rim as time expired, ending the Eagles' most impressive game of the season.
"I'm really proud of them and I'm extremely proud of (Michael) Sebanc. He had a great effort tonight," Gardner acknowledged.
Although the game was recorded as a loss, Gardner was impressed with his squad's effort and composure under fire.
"We gave ourselves a chance," Gardner said. "You're down seven with 1:03 and a lot of team will say, 'We don't have a chance, there's not enough time,' and do some silly things, but I thought our kids actually did everything you could possibly do to put yourself in a position to win.
"We get a great look at the end even. You get it in your senior's hand and he gets a two-footer and sometime the basketball gods just aren't with you; and it didn't go in," Gardner concluded.
The Eagles (1-7) will host Rockville at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
At South Putnam
Clay City 8 14 12 13 -- 47
South Putnam 11 10 8 16 -- 45
Clay City -- Kennedy 22, Cook 9, Rhodes 6, Higgins 3, Seymour 2, Defore 2, #30 2, Griffith 1. Totals: FG 17-36 FT 13-27 TP 47.
South Putnam -- Boswell 17, Welty 11, Frame 9, Masters 4, Chestnut 3, Sebanc 1. Totals: FG 17-39 FT 6-8 TP 45.
3pt. FG -- South Putnam 4 (Welty 3, Chestnut).
Next game -- The Eagles (1-7) will host Rockville at 7:30 p.m. Friday.