GREENFIELD – Despite several factors pointing to another late-game collapse, East Clinton gutted it out down the stretch Tuesday and won its first South Central Ohio League game of the year, 48-42, over the McClain Tigers.
“The kids were very disciplined,” EC interim coach Roger Earley said after the game. “A new coach, a new style it takes a while to adapt but everybody contributed.”
The win stops a five-game losing streak for the Astros. East Clinton is now 5-11 overall and 1-9 in the SCOL.
McClain falls to 3-12 overall and 2-8 in the SCOL.
JT McCarren (19) and Wyatt Floyd (17) combined for 36 of East Clinton’s 48 points but a tough-nosed, grind-it-out defensive effort keyed the win.
“The kids were very aggressive going after the ball,” said Earley, who has taken over the reigns of the Astros in the absence of head coach Tony Berlin, who is out for an undetermined time. “All in all, I thought the kids did well, especially at Greenfield. It’s a hard place to win. Hopefully this is the beginning of something (good).”
McClain’s Jacob Starkey, a junior post player, led all scorers with 23 points. He has eight in the opening period as the Tigers overcame a brief deficit early to lead 11-10 at the end of the first quarter.
McCarren assisted on Floyd’s first second quarter basket then scored on his own with DJ Luttrell getting the assist as the East Clinton went up 14-11. The Astros never trailed again, but it wasn’t easy.
Luttrell scored on a stickback to make it 16-13 and Floyd kept EC on top with two free throws with no time on the clock to make it 24-19 at halftime.
In the third, Cole Jenkins and Jonny Blair had assists on McCarren layins as the EC lead ballooned to 28-22. Starkey kept the Tigers close, 30-26, before EC went on a 6-0 run. The Tigers went to a 1-3-1 defense and the Astros solved with with nifty passing and strong defense.
“The best defense is a good offense,” Earley said. “As long as you’re patient with the ball, the defense will eventually break down and you’ll get a layup or free throws.”
East Clinton took a 39-30 lead on the final play of the third as Floyd drained a three-pointer. The Astros began the fourth with Josh Moskal and Blair combining for a McClain turnover. But after Floyd hit a free throw with 7:23 to play, East Clinton went cold. The Astros had six turnovers over the next 6:00 of game time.
But EC’s defense kept McClain from capitalizing. Starkey had nine in the third but only four in the fourth and no other Tiger was able to get the hot hand.
Matt Barton’s basket late in the game made it 42-39 but Floyd had an old-fashioned three-point play to push the EC lead to 45-39. Cody Hardesty countered with a basket and free throw at 1:03 to get the Tigers with 45-42.
The Astros hit just enough at the line down the stretch and the Tigers couldn’t get the offense untracked in the final minute.
Jan 26, 2016
@McClain High School
East Clinton 48 McClain 42
(48) EAST CLINTON (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Jenkins 1-0-0-2 Campbell 1-0-0-2 McCarren 9-0-1-19 Mercer 1-0-0-2 Moskal 1-0-0-2 Floyd 5-1-6-17 DJ Luttrell 1-0-2-4. TOTALS 19-1-9-48
(42) McCLAIN (fg-3fg-ft-tp) O’Conner 0-0-0-0 Dean 0-0-0-0 Starkey 11-0-1-23 Barton 3-1-0-7 Mischal 0-0-0-0 Hardesty 2-0-1-5 Hollar 1-1-0-3 Peck 1-0-0-2 Gray 0-0-2-2. TOTALS 18-2-4-42
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports.