LEES CREEK — East Clinton scored 10 of the last 12 points Friday versus SBAAC National Division foe Felicity-Franklin to run away with a 60-52 victory.
With the win, EC is 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the conference. Three wins in a season is the most for the Astros since 2018 when EC finished 11-12. Two SBAAC National wins in the season is also the most since the Astros went 7-5 in 2018.
Branson Smith exploded for 38 points, moving him to 898 for his East Clinton career. He is 102 points short of 1,000 career points.
Smith was 13 for 17 at the free throw, shooting all but one of the Astros shots from the charity stripe.
“He loves the moment,” EC head coach Phil Shori said of Smith. “He loves to score the ball.”
Tied at 50 after the Cardinals (1-3, 1-1) rattled off seven straight points, the Astros converted a pair of free throws (Jared Smith) and four close-range shots, including a layup (Branson Smith) off a steal (Jared Smith) and another hoop on an offensive putback (Justin Arnold), to pull away in the game’s final two minutes. The other basket was a nifty pass from Quinten Tolle to Jared Smith for an easy layin.
For most of the first three quarters, EC played the role of the hunter rather than the hunted.
The Cardinals led 12-6 after a quarter, but the Astros fought back to tie the game at 20-20 a minute before the intermission.
However, Felicity got a buzzer-beater three before the break to go up 23-20.
“We’ve seen it before,” Shori said referring to Blanchester’s Brayden Sipple hitting a 3 before the halftime buzzer on Tuesday. “You can have a big run at halftime but no matter what you still have to go sit down for 10 minutes and talk. I don’t think it matters much.”
The Astros overcame deficits of 25-20 early in the third quarter to tie the game at 28-28 and 37-32 midway through the quarter to tie the game at 39-39.
“I believe in my boys,” said Shori, the first-year coach. “I believe they can make the plays at the right time. They may drive me nuts. They may not execute all the time but they step up. They do their jobs when it counts.”
East Clinton got a buzzer-beater of its own, this one ahead of the third-quarter horn to put the hosts up 42-39 when Tolle assisted on Landon Runyon’s long-range basket. EC wouldn’t relinquish the lead.
“We switched it up on defense a lot,” said Shori. “Our kids did a great job of jumping back and forth. We’re not in a situation where we have to focus on our opponent. We have to focus on ourselves.”
East Clinton will host Fairfield 6 p.m. Saturday night in a varsity only game.
Dec 18, 2020
@East Clinton High School
East Clinton 60 Felicity 52
(60) EAST CLINTON (fg-3fg-ft-tp)B Smith 11-3-13-38 McClure 0-0-0-0 J. Smith 2-0-0-4 Runyon 4-2-0-10 Tolle 0-0-0-0 Davis 0-0-0-0 Arnold 4-0-0-8 Davis 0-0-0-0 Bean 0-0-0-0 Norman 0-0-0-0. TOTALS 21-5-13/18-60
(52) FELICITY (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Hiler 0-0-0-0 Baker 4-3-0-11 Crozier 12-0-1-25 Arthur 1-0-0-2 Blackburn 1-1-2-5 McElfresh 1-0-0-2 Liming 1-0-2-4 Taulbee 0-0-1-1 Holten 0-0-0-0 TOTALS 21-4-6-52
Shawn Robinson covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @twinzdad01. Mark Huber contributed to this story.