News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

March 4, 2014

Two sets of Eels win at WRV Sectional

SWITZ CITY — There’ll be no Cinderella story in Dugger to end this boys high school basketball season, and a spirited upset bid also fell short Tuesday night at the Class A White River Valley Sectional.

Defensive pressure and depth made the difference in both games, as Eminence ended the Union season — perhaps its last, at least as a public school — by a 59-46 score and Clay City pulled away in the second half for a 53-44 win over Shakamak.

“We told the kids they were going to be the answer to a trivia question one way or another,” coach Shawn Alspaugh of Eminence said after the first game. “They could either be the last team Dugger played, or they could be the last team Dugger beat.”

Either was a definite possibility in the first half, during which the Bulldogs led more often than not, and it was still a one-point game just past the midpoint of the third quarter.

Eminence closed out that period with an 8-0 run for a 43-34 lead, however, Koty Martin swishing a 35-footer at the buzzer to cap that rally, and Union’s 6-foot-7 center Austin Robertson picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in a 52-second span of the fourth quarter with his team trailing by eight. The Bulldogs never quit, but they never again got closer than seven points.

“We ran out of gas,” coach Joe Pigg said of his Bulldogs. “[Eminence’s] pressure hurt us … it was not for lack of effort; I thought we played really hard.”

With Robertson dominating inside — he finished with 17 points and a game-high 16 rebounds — Union had a 12-9 lead at the first stop. Eminence tied the score at 16 midway through the second quarter, but the Bulldogs responded with back-to-back 3-pointers by Carson Gaines and Melidian Maze.

Ethan Holley came back with a three-point play for Eminence, however, and then the Eels got back-to-back baskets off steals — Union had six turnovers in the second quarter, 20 for the game — for their first lead since 4-2. Robertson tallied to give the ‘Dogs their last lead, but Levi Hammett got a go-ahead 3-pointer with four seconds to go before halftime.

Hammett then took over in the third quarter, hitting his first four shots and scoring 11 points on his way to a game-high 23. Trey Bedwell added 14 points for Union.

Asked if the end of his alma mater’s boys basketball program had sunk in yet, Pigg — who has had severe back injuries — was able to quip, “It sunk in when the adrenaline was gone and my legs started to hurt real bad.”

As far as his players were concerned, Pigg added, “They’re hearing a lot of things right now [about future school opportunities]. I just told them that whatever happens, make sure you stay friends with each other.”

In the second game, Shakamak played its tempo against the two-time defending champions for quite a while, Dylan Collins scoring all the Laker points for a 9-6 lead at the first stop. Clay City never caught Shakamak in the second quarter either, although nine points from reserves Noah Denker and Hunter Wolfe helped the Eels stay within 22-20 at halftime.

The Lakers came out in the third quarter and ran two beautiful plays — Brandon Morin with a spectacular assist to Parker Green for a basket, then Morin converting a three-point plays off Green’s pass — only to have the game turn around.

The Eels, applying more and more defensive pressure to try to speed up the Shakamak attack, got the next nine points as Easton Booe got an offensive rebound and two free throws, Trevor Singer a 3-point basket, Evan Rogers tying the score with a layup and Booe getting the go-ahead basket.

It was still 29-28 after three quarters, and Clay City missed two free throws at the start of the fourth period. But Logan Cesinger rebounded the second miss for the Eels and fed Booe for a layup, and Denker stole the in-bounds pass to set up a score by Cesinger. Clay City was on its way to a 10-2 run for a 39-30 lead, and the game was out of hand for the offensively challenged Lakers.

“It’s 27-20,” coach Steve Brett of Shakamak recalled afterward. “Then we turn the ball over two or three times in a row, and the first thing we know it’s 39-30 ... defensively we did a pretty good job all night, and in the first half our execution was pretty good ... we hurt ourselves more than anything.”

“We know we can score in bunches if we need to,” coach Vance Edmondson of the Eels said. “Our defensive pressure in the second half was key. I’m proud of the way the guys battled … and Hunter Wolfe did a great job, gave us a nice spark.”

Collins led all scorers with 16 points for Shakamak, and he got all of those in the first half. Singer led the balanced Clay City offense with 13 points while Denker had 11 and Booe 10. Cesinger had six assists, and centers Morin and Josh Miller of Clay City had seven rebounds each.

“They’re a good team. There’s no doubt about that,” Brett said of the Eels. “But I think they know they were in a ballgame.”

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