PORTSMOUTH – It was the battle of the Panthers at Clay High School Monday night, as the Clay Panthers squared off against the Southeastern Panthers of Chillicothe, Ohio. Both sets of Panthers fought hard Monday night in what was a back and forth battle on the hardwood until the Southeastern Panthers eventually began to pull away in the latter part of the second half.
Clay stood toe-to-toe with Southeastern until the last minutes of the third quarter when Southeastern eventually regained a lead, and then went on to increase that lead until the final buzzer, defeating Clay, 70-51.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Clay coach Scott Cayton said. “The main thing we did in the first half that we didn’t do in the second half, was that we went out and found their scorer.”
That scorer was Ella Skeens, who led all players in scoring Monday evening, with 31 points. She was held to only 11 points in the first half, but was able to disect the Clay defense in the second half as she scored her remaining 20 points.
Audrie Wheeler also had success in disrupting Clay’s attempts to stifle the Southeastern offense in the second half. Wheeler scored 17 points against Cayton’s squad. She was limited to three points in the first half, but had a remarkable second half scoring 14 points.
“The Skeens girl, and the Wheeler girl can score in bunches, and we did a nice job of findin them,” Cayton said. “Then in the second half, we kind of let them get going, and they got the momentum.”
Southeastern stepped up its press on Clay in the second half, which caused further problems for the young Lady Panthers of Clay High School.
“In the first half we handled their pressure, got shots, and attacked the basket,” Cayton said. “Then in the second half, turnovers just killed us. There were too many possessions where we didn’t get shots, and we were just a little too timid.”
While Southeastern’s Skeens and Wheeler were contained in the first half, Clay’s Jensen Warnock was shining. Warnock led the Clay Lady Panthers with 22 points on the evening, scoring 16 of those in the first half. She also earned a double-double in the contest by pulling down 16 total rebounds against Southeastern.
Cam Delotel also broke double figures for Clay on Monday. She added 12 points to the Clay cause, while finishing one rebound shy of earning a double-double, finishing with nine.
“Overall, that first half, I think our girls just did a great job,” Cayton said. “I’m really proud of the way they played that first half.”
After the first quarter, Southeastern held a one-point lead over Clay, 19-18. That lead would increase by a few more points until Clay would tie, and then ultimately build a six point lead, 32-26, at halftime.
Southeastern erased the Clay lead about halfway through the third quarter, when Skeens gave her team a 37-36 lead with 3:58 left in the third. That was all Southeastern needed, as they continued to increase their lead to seven points, 50-43, at the end of the third, and ultimately the 19-point victory margin at the final buzzer.
The Clay Lady Panthers will return to their home floor on Thursday evening as they host the Western Lady Indians in an SOC matchup. Tipoff is scheduled for around 6:00 p.m.
Clay – Warnock 6-10-22, Delotell 4-1-12, Brown 2-1-6, Artis 2-1-6, Osborn 1-1-3, Nigh 1-0-2
Southeastern – Skeens 11-6-31, Wheeler 7-2-17, Mitten 5-0-10, Collins 3-0-6, Morris 1-2-4, Mitten 0-2-2
Three-point field goals – Clay 5 (Delotell 3, Brown, Artis) Southeastern 4 (Skeens 3, Wheeler)
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.