Oregon Clay’s game plan was simple against Lima Senior. Contain Kierre James.
The strategy paid off in the first two quarters as the Eagles limited the sharp-shooting Spartans to two points. This allowed Oregon Clay to open up a 31-15 halftime lead so when James came out with a vengeance in the second half, scoring 16 of her team-high 18 points, the Eagles’ cushion was large enough to outlast the Spartans’ late surge and claim a 59-49 victory in a Three Rivers Athletic Conference clash Thursday night.
Lima Senior falls to 9-11 overall and 3-9 in conference action. Clay evens its TRAC record to 6-6 and 11-8 for the season.
“We have been playing really good half court defense lately the last three games. ” Clay head coach Corey Slovak said. “So we felt with the way they play, their style with James, the leading scorer in the TRAC, that this was our game plan from the very beginning. We wanted to dig in defensively in the first half and stop them and make them take tough shots and hopefully our offense would catch up.”
Lima Senior head coach Vince Halliday agreed and said the Spartans’ early shooting woes was detrimental to Lima Senior’s cause.
“I had us 5 for 22 on layups or bunny shots in the first half,” Halliday said. “We scored a whooping three points in the second quarter and that is not ideal but, with that said, I am proud of how hard they played in the second half and we won the second half by six. I know that does not mean a lot but we could have folded and quit.”
Rebounding was also a factor in the Eagles’ success. By controlling the boards, the Eagles got numerous second and third chances while limiting the Spartans to just one shot. For the game, Oregon Clay outrebounded Lima Senior 34-25.
“Tonight we did a pretty good job of that and that hasn’t always been the case this year,” Slovak said.
Clay, on the strength of 3-point shooting from Sydney Hess, and the inside play of Elizabeth Vincent, propelled the Eagles to a 19-12 lead after the first quarter when Clay finished out the first stanza on an 11-4 run.
The Eagles lead ballooned to 31-15 when Lima Senior managed just three points in the second quarter.
In the second half, James began to find her shooting touch and the Spartan senior spearheaded a late surge in the final two periods.
At the onset of the fourth quarter, Lima Senior still trailed by double-digits, 43-25, but with James hitting shots and Talor Washington also scoring buckets, the Spartans chiseled the lead down to single digits b with a little more than two minutes left in the game but time ran out on Lima Senior.
Washington, who had two points in the first half, scored 10 in the fourth quarter, to finish with 12 points.
“Give them credit they came back and made it interesting and I think we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times but that was a lot of what they did to us,” Slovak said.
In addition to the loss, Lima Senior also suffered a major blow when Latoine Cowen went down with an injury early in the second half.
“We were short-handed tonight but the kids played hard and that is a solid team,” Halliday said. “We are playing catch-up all night but we kept battling. We forced 20 turnovers. We had 17 steals but that first half we were sluggish.”
Hess pumped in a game-high 24 points for Clay and Vincent added 12.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on Twitter at @JoseNogueras1