East Clinton head coach Bill Bean said he told his squad after the game they’ve done something that’s never been done at the school – back-to-back regional appearances and the school record for wins, including going undefeated in league play, the last two seasons.
“They have so much to be proud of. I told them not to let this loss tonight take away from the success they’ve had,” he said. “It’s always tough to tell a bunch of seniors ‘goodbye.’ I don’t know if I’ve ever been associated with a better bunch, basketball players and kids. You couldn’t ask for a better bunch of seven seniors. You hate to see it end.”
In addition to exchange student Lu Rigolin, East Clinton seniors are Jayden Murphy, Lauren Stonewall, Jozie Jones, Kami Whiteaker, Libby Evanshine and Megan Tong.
LIBBY LEGACY: East Clinton’s leading scorer Libby Evanshine finished her career with 1,449 points, good for 10th all-time in Clinton County history, boys and girls. She finished just four points shy of EC’s Wyatt Floyd who racked up 1,453 career points.
WOUNDED WARRIOR: Senior Kami Whitaker, who was injured on her three-pointer to start the district final game Saturday and gutted her way to a heroic performance, tried to make a go of it Wednesday, but was unable.
“You have to give that kid a lot of credit,” Bean said. “You talk about toughing it out. I told her to go through warmups and give me a thumbs up or thumbs down. You could see in warmups Kami couldn’t go. But you’re talking about a kid who gutted it out Saturday, and without that gutsy performance, tonight may not have even been a factor. I take my hat off to her.”
SUPER SUB: With Megan Tong starting for Whiteaker, Lauren Stonewall was the first person off the bench Wednesday.
“I thought she stepped up and played pretty well. We talked about her role needed to be bigger tonight. She got some key rebounds for us.” Stonewall finished with five rebounds.
BIG SHOT MURPH: Jayden Murphy has hit three three-pointers in four of her five games at Springfield High School the last two seasons, usually in big spots. Wednesday, she hit one to put East Clinton up 37-35 with 5:10 left in the game. She hit another early in the game as EC built a 13-6 first-quarter lead. Her second trey put the Astros up 17-13 midway through the second after Versailles had cut EC’s advantage to 14-13.
“She likes it here, I think,” Bean said. “She’s another kid, from her sophomore year on, who has had some big games. She is a shooter. Just a great kid we’ll miss.”
DEFENSIVE: Although the Astros are mostly a man-to-man team, Bean said he mixed up his defenses Wednesday.
“On makes situations, we played our zone, and on misses, we played man-to-man. As the game progressed, we played more and more zone, because we were stuggling to guard them, but in our zone we didn’t rebound as well,” he said. East Clinton was outrebounded by Versailles 40-21.
FINAL COUNTDOWN: Versailles and East Clinton were tied at 39 with 3:18 left in the game, and Versailles scored six of the game’s final eight points. With the score 41-39 Versailles with 1:50 left coming out of a timeout, the Tigers burned 64 seconds of clock before EC fouled. “Maybe we needed more time, but as good of a defensive team as we’ve been for the most part, my mindset was to guard them and get a steal. If it gets to a minute, then we’ll foul,” Bean said.
Versailles missed the front end of one-and-one. Jozie Jones got the rebound for East Clinton and was fouled. She hit the second of a double bonus to make it 41-40 with 44.1 left in the game.
After a pair of Versailles free throws made it 43-40 with 24.6 to go, EC had several cracks to tie the game. Lauren Stonewall got fouled and hit a free throw to make it 43-41 at the 4.5 second mark. Grace Osborne sealed the victory for Versailles with a pair of free throws a second later.