Eagles tough out big victory over Clay City
In a cross county girls’ basketball battle at South Putnam, the Eagles captured a 63-54 win in a contest that wasn’t decided until the final few minutes.
Clay City coach Chris Ames wasn’t ultimately satisfied with the end result, but could admit that the game was a fun one to be involved in afterward.
“I told Coach [Brian] Gardner that I really love the things that he does at South Putnam. He has done a great job since he has taken the girls’ job,” Ames said. “I have known Coach Gardner for a long time and he really knows what he is doing. I said throughout the game that ‘This is entertaining.’ It isn’t the end that we wanted, but it was a great test for us. We needed a really good test on the road.”
South Putnam got 26 points and 11 rebounds from gritty senior guard Lillie Stein to lead four Eagles with at least eight points in the victory. Clay City got 16 from senior Madelyn Ames to lead four Eels that had eight points or more.
The game lived up to its billing in the second half in a match-up between teams sporting just one loss apiece this season.
The opening quarter got off to a sluggish start before both teams settled into a rhythm after committing a combined five turnovers in the first three minutes. The Eels got rolling on the strength of those Eagle miscues as Andrea Steward scored six early points and Avalee Jeffers added five of her 11 points. The Eels jumped out to a 16-10 lead at the first stop as South Putnam committed seven turnovers in the opening eight minutes.
Stein was clutch all night for the Eagles as she got her team settled in the first period with a pair of 3-pointers. She would add 12 second-quarter points as South Putnam crept within 31-28 at intermission.
“I thought the first half for us, we turned the ball over way too many times. (Clay City) hit a lot of shots and I don’t know if we have given up 31 points in a half in the last two and half years,” South Putnam coach Brian Gardner admitted. “We talked at halftime that we had to take care of the basketball.”
The third period featured five lead changes and a pair of ties as both squads just kept hitting key shots in response to their opponent’s clutch field goals.
The Eagles got a game-tying 3-pointer from Miranda Bieghler to open the third period and both squads dug in against each other.
Lauryn Myers put the Eels back on top with a floater in the lane, but Stein hit a free throw as Jeffers picked up her third foul. Senior Ally Nichols followed with a tying bucket off an offensive rebound for the Eagles. The see saw continued as Jeffers hit a spinning lay-up that was then countered with a go-ahead score by Caitlin Capps for South Putnam. Ames fired right back with her third 3-pointer of the game for Clay City to put the Eels ahead briefly by two, 38-36.
“It seemed like every time they would drive it, Ames was knocking down shots. It sure seemed like she had more than 16 points. It felt like she had more like 30 points,” Gardner said. “(Clay City) is a really good team and this is a good, quality win. Coach Ames does a great job with those girls. They run their stuff really well and play hard.”
Ames was quick to compliment the Eagles’ dynamic players as well as Bieghler’s jumper from the free throw tied the game at 38 all.
“It was hard-fought at both ends of the floor. Both teams made big shot after big shot,” Ames said. “We didn’t identify No. 35 at times. The (Lillie) Stein girl is fantastic and (Miranda) Bieghler does a great job running the point for them. We just gave up too many offensive rebounds.”
South Putnam started to gain some traction as Jeffers went to the bench with her fourth foul with 3:37 left in the third period. She sat out nearly seven minutes before returning midway through the fourth quarter.
“Our effort was good. Jeffers was in foul trouble all night and I thought the kids that stepped in there and did the best they could,” Ames said of the Eels. “I was real pleased with all of them.”
The Eels stayed close as sophomore Hayley Walton hit a pair of free throws after grabbing an offensive rebound. Aubrey Hill got to the free throw line to put the Eagles up 44-42 and Stein finished the quarter with two more to put her squad ahead 46-43.
South Putnam was aggressive in getting to the basket and it showed in the foul column as Clay City had five players with three fouls heading into the final quarter.
“I thought tonight was the first time that we really attacked the glass. Lillie (Stein) did a good job and Caitlin (Capps) did a good job,” Gardner said. “I think it was a good win while we did all the little things. We hit our free throws at the end and limited (Clay City) to one shot.”
Capps and Clay City’s Asiah Hernandez traded field goals to start the final period before Bieghler put the Eagles ahead 51-45 with a 3-pointer. The Eagles began to open up some breathing room late by hitting the offensive boards. A bucket by Bieghler preceded a technical foul whistled on the Eels. Bieghler hit both free throws as South Putnam pushed their lead as high as 60-51 with 1:39 remaining.
“When things were on the line we hit shots,” Gardner said. “We have been struggling from the field lately so I thought that was big. We finally stopped settling and attacked the rim.”
Bieghler had seven of her 14 points in the final quarter to seal the win as Steward countered with 12 points for the Eels, five in the fourth quarter.
South Putnam won the junior varsity game 40-19 lead by seven points apiece from Alex Steffy and Brionna Egold. Clay City got six from Emily Hyatt and five from Tara Arthur.
The Eels are now 7-2 and host Linton-Stockton on Thursday evening while the Eagles are now 7-1 and visit Greencastle on Friday night.
CLAY CITY (54) — Steward 4-6 2-4 12, Walton 1-6 6-12 8, Myers 1-5 0-0 2, Ames 5-7 2-2 16, Jeffers 3-8 5-8 11, Hernandez 1-2 0-0 2, Grassick 0-0 0-0 0, Dickson 1-2 1-2 3. Totals: 16-36 FG, 16-27 TP, 54.
SOUTH PUTNAM (63) — Nichols 1-2 0-0 2, Bieghler 4-10 4-4 14, Vanihel 3-7 2-4 8, Capps 5-11 2-2 12, Stein 8-15 6-10 26, Custis 0-0 0-0 0, Batchelor 0-2 0-0 0, Hill 0-3 1-4 1. Totals: 21-50 FG, 15-24 FT, 63.
Clay City 16 15 12 11 — 54
South Putnam 10 18 18 17 — 63
3-point field goals – CC 6-17 (Steward 2-4, Ames 4-6, Myers 0-3, Walton 0-3, Hernandez 0-1), SP 6-13 (Bieghler 2-5, Stein 4-5, Vanihel 0-2, Capps 0-1). Total Rebounds – CC 25 (Jeffers 6, Dickson 4), SP 36 (Stein 11, Vanihel 6). Total Fouls – CC 20, SP 19. Fouled out – CC (Jeffers). Technical fouls – CC 2, SP 0. Turnovers – CC 16, SP 16.