JACKSON – For Clay head coach Scott Artis and the Clay girls’ basketball program, the Panthers 49-30 district semifinals loss to Eastern Meigs not only ended an era in Clay girls’ basketball history, but also an era in Clay sports history.
“I can’t put into words what they mean to me,” said Artis about the impact his five seniors and this team have left on him and their program. “I’ve been with the girls a long time. Skylar’s my daughter, but they’re all like my kids. They mean a lot to me, not just as ball players but as people. They’re exceptional kids, it’s been an honor to coach them and I hate to lose them. It’s going to be hard to recover as a school, to lose that kind of a group, but all we can do is prepare for next year.”
Clay started Thursday night’s district semifinal playing extremely well, taking an 8-7 lead over the Eagles while crashing both the offensive and defensive glass. However, things would transition rather quickly. After the Panthers claimed that early 8-7 lead, Eastern would proceed to go on an 18-0 run, eventually leading 25-7 before taking a 27-13 lead into the halftime locker room.
“Hats off to them, I think they came out ready to play and we came out a little bit shaky, we just couldn’t hit our shots,” said Artis. “I think we had 13 at half, that pretty much sums it up. It’s hard to overcome that deficit. They’re a great team, it was their night and it wasn’t ours.”
Clay would attempt to cut into the Eagles lead on multiple occasions and did so to a 12 point deficit twice but were unable to get Eastern’s lead into single digits. After three quarters, Clay fell behind 41-23 before ultimately falling short at 49-30 by game’s end.
In graduation, Clay loses senior captain Jensen Warnock who amassed over 1500 points and nearly 800 rebounds for her career, Skylar Artis who holds numerous school records including most assists in a season and most assists in a career at Clay with 118 and 439 respectively, Cameron DeLotell who was an all-district honorable mention during her sophomore season and averaged 10.8 ppg during her senior season, Sophia Balestra who averaged 7.9 points per game, 9.0 rebounds per game, and 4.0 steals per game during her senior season, as well as senior Hannah Pauley.
For Artis, he would put his group of girls’ up against anyone, on the court and in life.
“As far as their character and them as people, I’d put them up against any team in the nation. I can’t say enough about the kind of kids they are. As a coach, it’s an honor to be able to coach a group like that at that level. We knew pretty much we would have five girls, with a sub here or there. But they gave 100% at all times throughout the season, and it just says a lot about them and how hard they worked.”
EM: 13-14-14-8 – 49
Clay: 8-5-10-7 – 30
EM: 22 FG, 3 3PT, 2/5 FT. Scoring: Barber 12, Casto 8, K. Rockhold 7, Bailey 6, Parker 4, Guthrie 3, T. Rockhold 3, Sanders 2, Durst 2, Basham 2
Clay: 12 FG, 3 3PT (Ja. Warnock 2), 3/10 FT. Scoring: Je. Warnock 11, Ja. Warnock 10, Artis 4, Gatti 3, Balestra 2