SOUTH WEBSTER – It was a battle between the SOC I and the SOC II Saturday night at South Webster High School, as the Jeeps played host to the Clay Panthers. After getting off to a slow start against the Jeeps, Clay was able to regroup and adjust to South Webster to pick up a road win late in the regular season, 62-56.
Both teams came out with a slow start after the opening tipoff, as the game would remain scoreless 2:12, until South Webster’s Nathan Hadinger picked up a bucket for the Jeeps.
Momentum quickly swayed to South Webster after their initial bucket. The Jeeps would score two more times in the next minute to start off on a 6-0 run against the Panthers.
After a Clay free throw, the Jeeps would add another score, as they looked to be ready to walk away with the game.
The Panthers had other plans however, as they would rally and cut the Jeep lead to just a single point, 12-11, by the end of the first quarter.
Troubles would arise for the Jeeps in the second quarter, as Clay began to put together a few scores, and defensive stops to give the Panthers their first lead of the game. By the end of the first half, South Webster had lost their momentum and control of the game to Clay, who had outscored the Jeeps, 16-7, in the second quarter.
South Webster’s one-time seven-point lead had vanished, and would never return, as the Panthers pulled out to a 27-19 lead over the Jeeps at halftime.
“I thought our guys played with a lot of composure tonight,” Clay coach Adam Betten said. “We got down early, and they stuck with the gameplan. You know, we didn’t call a timeout early. They just stuck with it and continued to play extremely hard.”
The Panthers refused to let the slow start affect the rest of the game. After gaining the lead early in the second quarter, Clay continued to put up points to increase their lead, and control of the game.
“I was extremely proud of the poise they played with,” Betten said. “They were able to come back and get the lead there in the second quarter, and then they never let up from there.”
South Webster continued to fight, and was successful in chipping away at every sizable lead the Panthers managed to gain. As the Jeeps’ increased their intensity and determination to keep the game from getting away from them, the Panthers responded in similar measure to stifle any potential lead changing comebacks.
“We were able to not panic, and step up and hit some free throws, especially at the end,” Betten said. “Overall I was pleased with their composure tonight.”
The Jeeps cut a 10-point Panther lead to a three point lead about halfway through the third quarter. Then Clay put together a few scores to increase their lead to nine points a minute later.
The fourth quarter had a similar story to the third. Clay was holding on to an 8-point lead, which then quickly was cut to five points, before the Panthers were able to stop yet another potential South Webster rally.
Time would simply run out for South Webster, as they were forced to foul to stop the clock. Clay was able to hit a few more free throws to increase their lead, and gain a few insurance points, which came in handy after a Shane Zimmerman three-pointer in the final minute of the game.
“South Webster is a great basketball team, and I have nothing but respect for coach Fenton,” Betten said. “He’s a great guy, and he does fantastic things for this program.”
“You know, Shane (Zimmerman) is a great basketball player, and anytime he’s on your team you’re never out of the game. He can step up and hit shots, and get to the basket. He did a great job tonight.”
South Webster will hit the hardwood again on Tuesday evening, as they host the Valley Indians, in an SOC II matchup. Tipoff is set for around 7:30 p.m.
The Panthers will face off against the Notre Dame Titans on Tuesday evening at Clay High School. The SOC I matchup between the Panthers and Titans is scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m.
South Webster – Zimmerman 8-7-26, A. Blevins 4-0-9, Hadinger 3-2-8, S. Blevins 3-0-6, Coriell 2-0-5
Clay – Gilliland 4-6-16, Riffe 4-5-15, King 5-3-14, Hinze 3-5-14, Meade 1-0-2, Williams 0-2-2
Three-point field goals – South Webster 4 (Zimmerman 2, A. Blevins, Coriell) Clay 7 (Hinze 3, Gilliland 2, Riffe, King)
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.