LEES CREEK – East Clinton held off a furious fourth-quarter comeback by Fayetteville-Perry for a 60-55 victory and head coach Phil Shori’s first career win.
“From 2-21 last year, to pick up a win early for these kids who went through a quarantine and who have gone through so much this year, for us to pick up a win early, I’m hoping we can snowball this,” Shori said. “It felt good. It’s something special.”
The win came with some bittersweet moments for East Clinton community and Shori, though.
Before the game, EC Principal Michael Adams announced the passing of Director of Athletics and Assistant Principal Jim Marsh, which came less than two months after the sudden passing of EC girls basketball coach Jeff Craycraft.
“He would say ‘Let’s play the game,’” Adams said about Marsh before asking for a moment of silence before the game. “We’ll do that in honor of him.”
The camera wasn’t working in the gym, either, so nobody could see the game, which meant Shori’s family three hours away couldn’t be part of the milestone. That included his father who has been keeping his scorebook since the 23-year-old Shori started coaching at 19.
“I told the kids my family didn’t get to come down, but down here, they are my family. So to be able to experience that with them, it’s a feeling I’ll never forget,” Shori said.
East Clinton led 52-40 with six minutes left in the contest, but Fayetteville-Perry whittled that lead to 56-53 by the 2:13 mark.
The Astros (1-1) salted the game away at the free throw line, connecting on all four attempts down the stretch.
“At the time, it was the smart decision,” Shori said about taking the air out of the ball up 12. “Kind of seeing that lead trickle away, I started thinking of playing to win and not playing to lose. I tried to get us back in our main offense. We tried to take the air out of the ball, but we shouldn’t have. We should have kept pushing on. That’s something I’ll learn from.”
The first half was a back-and-forth affair before EC took the lead for good, 25-22 at the 3:14 mark of the second quarter. The Rockets (1-2) were able to hang around with 11 second-chance points.
“We told them at halftime, this is why they are in this game, because they are getting rebounds, and not only are they getting them, they are sticking them back in and we are fouling them,” Shori said. “It was a collective effort of if we’re going to win this game, we have to keep them off the boards, and the rest will fall into place.”
“We were playing for Mr. Marsh tonight,” Shori said. “He would tell us ‘Go win the game.’ They really stepped up for him and for us. Things fell into place. We had people watching over us tonight who helped us make the right at the right time, and I’m a full believer in that.”
FP – 14 9 14 18 – 55
EC – 12 15 18 15 – 60
FP (55) – Coffman 7-1-15, Cornett, 0-0-0, Widerhold, 3-1-9, Bradshaw 5-3-13, Malone 2-1-6, Holden 3-0-8, Attinger 0-0-0, Tipis 0-0-0, A. Snider 2-0-4. Total 22-6-60. 3-point goals: 5 (Wiederhold 2, Holden 2, Malone). FTM-FTA 6-13, 46 percent.
EC (60) – B. Smith 9-1-22, Collom 6-6-21, J. Smith 5-0-11, Runyon 2-0-5, Tolle 0-1-1, McClure 0-0-0, Davis 0-0-0, Norman 0-0-0, Arnold 0-0-0. Total 22-8-60. 3-point goals: 8 (B. Smith 3, Collom 3, J. Smith, Runyon). FTM-FTA 8-12, 67 percent.
Shawn Robinson covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @twinzdad01.