For the second time this basketball season, the East Tartans and Clay Panthers faced off in a showdown of two SOC I schools.
East won the first matchup 70-67 on December 5 of last year, thanks in large part to a 32-point output from junior Kyle Flannery.
In the rematch, Flannery was held to just four points, and Clay grabbed a 50-40 win.
The Panthers had three scorers in double figures, led by 14 points from Garrett Beegan. Hunter Mathias dropped 13 points, and Mason Newton had 10.
Beegan was effective on all areas of the floor, getting it done at both ends. His defensive presence was a force throughout the night, as the junior grabbed several big boards. Beegan also got his teammates involved in the halfcourt, and was able to score when his number was called upon.
For the Tartans, it was the play of J.D. Hatcher and Michael Bivens that stood out. Hatcher had a team-high 11 points, and Bivens scored 10.
Both players were incredibly active on offense and defense, as their effort never seemed to subside throughout the four quarters.
Hatcher was able to put his head down and guard, forcing several key turnovers in the second half. Bivens used his 6-foot-3 frame to cause havoc on the glass, pulling down multiple rebounds on both sides of the floor.
In a game of runs, it was the Panthers who jumped out early on East.
Clay got a score from Beegan to open the game at the 7:45 mark of the first, and the Tartans tied the score at 6:39 with an offensive rebound and layup from Ethan Carver.
Second chance points were big for East throughout, though they would also be problematic. At times, the Tartans had trouble missing shots inside the paint after grabbing rebounds.
The Panthers pulled ahead early in the game to grab a 14-4 lead, aided by an 8-0 spurt with two scorers from Newton and two from Mathias.
East head coach Adam Bailey took a quick timeout with 2:22 to play, and Clay out on front on a hot start.
Cooling down a bit to close out the quarter, the Panthers led the Tartans 15-6 after one.
The second quarter was a bit of a power struggle for both sides. East would outscore Clay 12-11 in the period, but still were behind 26-18 at halftime.
It took a late 6-0 run from the Tartans to get to that point, with buckets from Flannery, Bivens, and Will Shope in the final three minutes of the first half.
Scoring woes were the story for the Panthers in the second quarter, as they were held scoreless for the final 4:25 of the half.
East would make a run in the third quarter, but suffered a big blow when Flannery was issued a technical foul at the 7:17 mark.
Flannery would not play the rest of the game after receiving the tech, though he checked out with just four fouls.
The Tartans outscored Clay 9-4 the remainder of the third, as the offensive struggles continued a bit for the Panthers.
East was able to force several turnovers and get out in transition, but slowed down towards the end of the third. Neither team would score in the final 2:54 of the quarter.
After three, the score was 34-29 in favor of Clay.
Finally, in the fourth, both offenses began to heat up and trade baskets.
The Tartans would pull within three to start the fourth on a pair of free throws from Hatcher, but the Panthers answered with four points from Beegan.
Beegan scored seven of his 14 points in the final quarter, stepping up big down the stretch.
Trailing 42-33, a shot from Shope found the bottom of the net at 5:18 to play.
East or Clay wouldn’t score for nearly three more minutes, when Zach Garrett got a steal and went coast to coast for a layup with 2:29 remaining.
With that basket, the Tartans trailed 42-37.
From there, the Panthers outscored East 8-3 the rest of the way to nab the 50-40 win.
It was the second win of the season for Clay, as the Panthers were able to piece together a complete performance to grab the dub.
Next up for Clay is a trip to Franklin Furnace on Friday to take on Green.
The road won’t get any easier for the Tartans. East has played only eight games this season, and will travel to conference leader Eastern Pike on Friday.
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