PDT Sports Contributor
LUCASVILLE – It’s always a treat to watch a game where two teams show great intensity levels throughout a contest and are able to show the crowd what postseason basketball is all about through their intensity levels.
Unfortunately, wins cannot be given just on effort alone as the Clay Panthers lost in the sectional finals to the Paint Valley Bearcats by a 58-48 tally in a Division IV Sectional Final matchup at Valley High School Tuesday evening.
Adam Betten said that Paint Valley’s defensive game plan had a major effect on what Clay was able to do in the low post.
“(Paint Valley) packed it in on us in the post and we ended up taking a lot more outside shots than we usually do because of that,” Betten said. “That’s a credit to their defense. (Paint Valley coach David Shoemaker) does a good job with their defense. He forced us on the outside and made us shoot from there.”
The Panthers would start the contest out strong as Sarajlic scored seven of Clay’s first 10 points as the Panthers jumped out to a 10-2 advantage over the first five minutes of the contest.
“Eldin’s been our leader all year,” Betten said. “He’s the guy we want to go to. He took some really good shots and got it to the basket.”
However, Sarajlic was relegated to the bench after his out start due to foul trouble, which was a key factor in Paint Valley’s 19-6 run over the remainder of the half that gave the Bearcats a 21-16 lead at the halftime intermission.
Betten also added that the foul trouble that Sarajlic got into affected how Clay attacked Shoemaker’s defense for the rest of the contest.
“… Unfortunately, when Eldin had to sit with some foul trouble in the second quarter, it hurt us a little bit,” Betten said. “He came out in the third quarter and put in some points, but we were just never able to get back into that rhythm that we had when he was going in the first half. He’s a great player though. He hit some shots and he’s going to be missed, that’s for sure.”
Paint Valley would go on another run to start the second half as the Bearcats would answer a Nate Hinze bucket with an 11-4 run that lasted for the remainder of the third quarter on the strength of Michael Crabtree’s eight-point frame.
Clay did not go away quietly, however, as the Panthers went on a 10-2 run early in the fourth quarter to turn a 36-29 deficit into a 39-38 advantage after Hinze drew contact on a layup attempt and hit the first of two free throw attempts to give Clay its first lead since the end of the first quarter.
However, Paint Valley would answer back with one final surge, an 18-3 tilt, to put the Bearcats up to stay and put the game out of reach with Paint Valley up by a 56-42 margin and only a minute left to play in the contest.
Overall, Hinze and Adam Cooper would combine for 16 of Clay’s 25 points in the final frame, while the Bearcats would get eight points in the quarter from Clay Stratton and seven from Anthony McFadden on their way to a 26-point 4th quarter as the two squads would end up combining to score 51 of the game’s 106 points in the final quarter of play.
Despite the loss and subsequent elimination from postseason play, Betten was extremely pleased with the leadership that his seniors (Cooper, Sarajlic, Michael Schmidt and Mason Pelphrey) provided in the contest and throughout the season.
“The four seniors are great leaders,” Betten said. “They took care of us this year. We really rode on their backs. Mason, Michael, Eldin, and Adam did a great job of leading all of us. Those guys are definitely going to be missed because they are leaders on and off of the floor. They set the example and the rest of the guys follow them. They’re tremendous young men and they will be missed in our program.”
With the win, Paint Valley will advance to district play, where they will face off against SOC II member South Webster at Ohio University’s Convocation Center on March 4th.
The Jeeps, who are 11-12 on the season, upset Racine Southern 65-54 Tuesday evening in a Division IV Sectional Final held at Meigs High School to record their seventh win in a row.
Clay 10 6 7 25 – 48
Paint Valley 8 13 11 26 – 58
Clay – Cooper 4-0-9, A. Phipps 1-0-2, Sarajlic 5-2-12, Schmidt 1-2-4, Pelphrey 4-0-9, Hinze 4-1-12, Totals 19-5-48.
Paint Valley – McFadden 6-3-16, Crabtree 5-5-17, Draise 1-0-2, Stratton 4-4-12, McCloy 3-4-11, Totals 19-16-58.
3-Point Goals – Clay 5 (Hinze 3, Cooper, Pelphrey); Paint Valley 4 (Crabtree 2, McFadden, McCloy).
Records – Clay 12-10, Paint Valley 9-14.