PDT Sports Contributor
When two teams are locked into a tight affair, free throw shooting can mean the difference between winning and losing.
The Clay Panthers were able to use the free throw disparity to their advantage Friday evening as an 18-6 edge at the free throw line fueled Clay to a 57-50 win over the Notre Dame Titans.
Adam Betten was really impressed with his team’s composure during the contest and said that their ability to handle the raucous crowd was the key to winning the SOC I battle.
“It was a tournament environment,” Betten said. “I thought the guys did a great job in this sort of atmosphere. The seniors really stepped up and played well. I was extremely pleased with how they came out.”
Michael Schmidt and Mason Pelphrey led the charge for Clay, as the duo played a big role in the Panthers’ 21-3 run that spanned the entire third quarter and the first 45 seconds of the fourth quarter. Schmidt and Pelphrey would combine for 13 of the 21 points during the run.
Overall, Pelphrey and Schmidt would finish with 17 and 16 points respectively as the Panthers used the aforementioned run to give them a lead that they would not relinquish.
Betten was also very happy with Clay’s performance from the free throw stripe tonight, as the Panthers hit as many as 11 free throws in a row en route to an 18-for-25 night at the stripe (76%).
“I was really pleased that we were able to get the ball inbounds and get it to the right guys,” Betten said. “I thought Mason did a good job. He hit seven in a row at one point. I think Michael and Eldin (Sarajlic) hit some free throws. I thought they did a great job. You know, it’s just continuing to hit those (free throws) down the stretch and that’s what you have to do to beat good quality basketball teams.”
Matt Mader said that Clay’s length hindered what the Titans were able to do offensively by being active and aware on defense.
“Give Clay credit, their kids came and played hard,” Mader said. “We knew we were going to have to rebound the basketball to be able to stay with them. They’re big, they’re long, I don’t know how many deflections they had, but they had hands in the passing lanes, a ton of rebounds and putbacks, and they just did a really nice job.”
Mader said that Notre Dame needs to perform well in all facets of the game to continue to win basketball games like the Titans have done for the vast majority of the season.
“When you don’t shoot free throws well, you don’t take care of the basketball and you don’t rebound, it’s hard to win games, and I think we did a better job of taking care of the basketball this time around than I think we did the first time we played (Clay) but they were aggressive and really took advantage of it.”
However, C.J. Smith performed well for Notre Dame as the junior scored a game-high 20 points, including the first eight for the Titans on the night.
“C.J. is a gym rat that loves basketball and it shows,” Mader said. “He can shoot the basketball, and he did a nice job from the perimeter, and he did a nice job of keeping us in the game tonight.”
Ultimately, Betten said that the aggressiveness in the rebounding department was critical for the Panthers in addition to the scoring, as Eldin Sarajlic finished with 15 rebounds while Schmidt added 10 boards of his own to give him a double-double for the contest.
“… Michael and Mason both ended up (in double figures), and Michael had 10 rebounds. (Michael) played a heck of a game,” Betten said. “He kept up in it with some offensive rebounds and putbacks, Eldin did a good job hanging onto the ball, getting it to the right people in the middle of (Notre Dame’s) press.”
Both teams will hit the road for their upcoming matchups, but Clay will play tomorrow at South Webster while Notre Dame is off until next Wednesday as they will travel to Lawrence County to play Ironton St. Joseph.
Clay 12 9 17 19 —57
Notre Dame 12 11 3 24 — 50
Clay — Cooper 2-0-4, Phillips 1-0-3, Sarajlic 2-4-8, Schmidt 6-4-16, Pelphrey 4-8-17, Hinze 3-2-9, Totals 18-18-57.
Notre Dame — D. Smith 3-1-8, Haney 2-1-4, Toleman 3-0-6, Turner 1-0-2, C. Smith 7-3-20, Ogg 5-0-10, Totals 21-5-50.
3-Point Goals — Clay 3 (Phillips, Pelphrey, Hinze); Notre Dame 4 (C. Smith 3, D. Smith).
Records — Clay 8-8 (5-5); Notre Dame 15-3 (10-2).