Salukis' survive Clay City comeback
Red Hill gets 16-points from Nick Evans in 63-53 win

CLAY CITY - In the first few minutes of their game at Clay City Saturday night, coach Bryan Havill's Red Hill Salukis looked like they would pick up an easy non-conference road win and coast into next week's Olney East Richland Class A Regional ready for a big run.

But in this dogfight, the host Wolves refused to roll over and play dead.

After the Salukis jumped out to a quick double-digit lead and led by 23-points at one point in the third quarter, Clay City got rolling and made an incredible and unlikely comeback.

More importantly senior Brandon Allison wasn't about to let the last home game of his career become an embarrassing loss.

The 6-foot-2 senior scored a game-high 26-points and led a 15-0 run in the third quarter that carried over into a 23-3 march that at one point cut the Wolves deficit down to just four points.

Red Hill, however, had enough left to withstand the onslaught by making six consecutive free throws in the final moments to pick up a 63-53 victory in front of a good crowd at Clay City.

Improving to 17-8 overall, Red Hill can now focus on playing Noble West Richland Monday night in the first round at Olney.

"Clay City has had a good year and tonight we let them stay in the game and we have done that a few times this year when we had leads and didn't hold on to them," said Red Hill coach Bryan Havill. "We expected to come here and have a dogfight but we did enough things in the fourth quarter to get a win."

The Wolves finished the regular season 14-12 and coach Adam Ellis' crew will tackle Clay County rival Flora at Olney on the same night.

"Once we settled down and stopped them from getting the ball into the lane against our zone, the defense worked well," said Ellis. "In the first half we just didn't play good defense and we didn't keep them from getting the ball inside. In the second half we did a much better job."

Struggling for most of the last three quarters against that 2-3 zone, Red Hill got a couple of big rebound buckets (dunks) late in the game from 6-foot-11 junior center Nick Evans.

Evans finished with 16-points to lead the Salukis and his last score came on a missed free throw by teammate Blake Potts with 2:47 remaining.

Potts, Robert Petty and Chris Wampler combined to make 6-of-6 charities to seal the win.

When the game opened up, Red Hill blitzed the Wolves for 12 quick points in succession.

Eight of the twelve were from 5-foot-10 junior Lenny Diggs as he scored on two baseline drives and again on two fast break transitional scores.

His steal and coast-to-coast bucket with 5:42 left made it 12-0 and forced a Clay City TO.

The Wolves finally started howling after spotting the Salukis that cushion.

Allison took his team on his back for 13-points before the first horn.

Two of his scores were the result of taking the ball strong to the basket for conventional three-point plays; the second of which closed the first frame scoring at 22-15.

But that small comeback only seemed to irritate the visitors as Red Hill quickly went on another brilliant run that seemingly was a knockout blow.

An 11-2 blast out of the gate in the second quarter pushed the Salukis into a comfort zone at 33-17.

Red Hill also closed the quarter strong two buckets in the lane by the 6-foot-6 Petty, who struggled early in the game to get the ball.

Finding few openings inside against the Clay City zone in the first half, Red Hill hit four 3-point shots.

The final one from Potts with :03 remaining put the lid on a 42-23 first half of domination by the Little Illini Conference runner up.

"It was a shame it took us a half of basketball to get going," added Ellis, who is in his first season as head coach at Clay City. "There are some things fundamentally that we need to get better at."

Once again Red Hill, as it had done in the first two quarters, got the scoring started in the third quarter.

Evans continued to impress, using his size in the lane for two quick baskets.

When Petty hit a pair of free throws on Clay City's 6-foot-5 senior Patrick Bangert's third personal foul with 5:38 to go, Red Hill was in command 50-28.

But then the momentum shifted like the San Andreas Fault and the scoring tremor turned a blowout into a close contest.

Fifteen consecutive points from Clay City came about from hot shooting, good defense and a cold spell and mistake-laden stretch by Red Hill.

Committing six third quarter turnovers and hitting just 3-of-12 shots from the field, the Salukis squandered nearly all of its ostensibly insurmountable advantage.

Nearly all the Clay City Pack got into the comeback-scoring spree.

Allison, Evan Bloehs, Austin Workman and Ricky Nelson all produced points in the run.

Workman and Nelson's contributions were from long distance and when Nelson's 3-pointer from the left corner 'ripped the cotton', Clay City trailed just 50-43 heading into the final countdown.

"When were up 17 or 19 points we got impatient and we made some offensive mistakes that allowed them (Clay City) to make a run," Havill explained.

Coach Ellis' troops cut the lead down to four points twice in the final frame.

Allison's last points, on a fade away 3-pointer from the right wing, cut the lead to 53-49 with 4:06 to go.

But at this point, Evans scored the first of his two big fourth quarter baskets.

After a Workman rebound basket got the Clay City deficit back to four, Evans cleaned the offensive glass after the Potts miss which deflated the Wolves comeback.

Without Bangert in the game (he fouled out with 5:10 to go) Clay City couldn't keep the much bigger Salukis from getting important rebounds.

"We knew Patrick was the only kid we had that could hang in there with their (Red Hill) two big guys and when he fouled out we were in trouble." Ellis added. "Evans is nice player, I can't believe this is the first year that he has played organized basketball."

When Clay City missed a shot with just under a minute left and trailing by ten, the Wolves decided not to foul as Red Hill held the ball to run out the clock on the regular season for both clubs.

As for the numbers, Red Hill hit 22-of-48 overall (46 percent) from the field on the night and 4-of-10 from behind the arc.

Evans' 16-points was followed by Diggs with 14 while Petty and Potts added 11 each.

Evans, a home schooled kid who is playing in his first year of high school basketball, is a junior that should continue to improve.

The Salukis committed 11 turnovers but held a 34-27 rebounding edge that seemed greater than that number.

"It is disappointing sometimes because we have seen a lot of zone defenses this year and we have done well at times working against them but sometimes we have struggled," said Havill. "But we have shot free throws down the stretch of games pretty well this year and that got us the win."

Clay City got an outstanding performance by Allison with 26-points to go with 11 from Workman and eight from Bloehs. Allison also had four steals while playing a solid all around game.

The Wolves shot 21-of-61 (34 percent) and just 4-of-16 behind the arc while turning the ball over nine times.

Tyler Frohning, a 5-foot-10 senior starting guard and one of the top scorers for Clay City, has been nursing a sore ankle and only played a few minutes in the second quarter.

"Brandon (Allison) has been there for us all year and he played with a lot of guts tonight," added Ellis. "He wants the ball and that is rare to find a high school kid that wants it like he does. He has picked up some of the slack we have missed since Frohning hasn't been able to play much. I have told the kids that if we could find a way to put together four quarters like we did the third quarter tonight that we could be a dangerous team next week in the regional."

Red Hill
Clay City

Red Hill (63) - Padgett 1 0 0-0 2, Diggs 6 0 2-3 14, Potts 0 3 2-3 11, Wampler 0 1 4-4 7, Carmichael 1 0 0-0 2, James 0 0 0-0 0, Petty 3 0 5-6 11, Evans 7 0 2-5 16.
2FG-18, 3FG-4, FT-15-21, PF-11.
Clay City (53) - Frohning 0 0 0-0 0, Nelson 2 0 0-0 4, Allison 7 3 3-3 26, Mitchel 0 0 0-0 0, Workman 5 0 1-4 11, Lewis 0 0 0-0 0, Bloehs 2 1 1-2 8, Bangert 1 0 2-4 4.
2FG-17, 3FG-4, FT-7-13, PF-18.
Fouled Out - Bangert, Clay City.
Technical Fouls - None.