Patoka boys grind out win against North Clay

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By Andrew Harner

PATOKA – The Warriors had a season high in points scored on Monday, but that was just enough to fend off a pesky North Clay squad during a 72-63 win, Patoka’s first since Dec. 12.

“A win is a positive right now,” said coach Joe Eddy. “It’s a quality win, but the good win is on Friday, when we play a conference game.”

That, however, would actually be a great win.

Patoka (5-10) hosts St. Elmo (11-3) this Friday, but it would be quite an upset for the Warriors, who are scoring 41 points per game, against the Eagles, who score 10 more points per game than they allow.

But if Patoka matches up well enough with the Eagles and rides the momentum from Monday’s win, there’s always the possibility.

Senior Brandon Budds had a game-high 18 points for the Warriors against North Clay, and leading scorer Johnnie Clift, a sophomore, was right behind, with 17 points. Three other players – Dylan Back, Quinn Wadkins and Jake Orrell – had at least eight points.

Clift grabbed a team-best nine rebounds, and Budds followed, with eight.

Still, that was almost not enough, as North Clay used a press defense to force the Warriors into eight fourth-quarter turnovers, helping erase the Cardinals’ 15-point deficit.

With 3:06 left in the game, North Clay banked in a 3-pointer to cut Patoka’s lead to just 54-52.

After a timeout, Orrell would score five points in a span of 25 seconds to seemingly give back the momentum to the Warriors, but North Clay would get a bank shot and a second-chance layup off of a Patoka turnover to make the score, 59-58.

The Warriors, who during the game struggled overall at the free-throw line (26-of-44 for 59 percent), would make 11-of-15 from the stripe in the final 1:40 to seal the win.

Eddy said, however, that the game never should have been that close.

He cited five missed open layups and eight missed free throws in the first half as the culprit. Had even just 10 of those points been converted, Patoka would have led by 17 points at the break.

But as it was, North Clay was still in the game and used its press defense effectively throughout the second half.

“They sped the game up, and instead of keeping our pace, we tried to run with them,” Eddy said. “We had some careless turnovers, and then didn’t find a shooter twice in a row to make it interesting.

“We would run our press break and get a layup, but then the next time we would put down our head and dribble down the sideline,” he said. “Every time we dribbled down the sideline, we turned the ball over.”

In the second half, North Clay scored seven points off of turnovers.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals also were grabbing offensive rebounds in bunches, taking 18 of them in the second half and turned them into 16 second-chance points.

“Every huddle and timeout, it was, ‘We’re not rebounding,’” Eddy said. “We were in front of them, but we weren’t pushing on them to where they can’t jump. It’s not an over-the-back foul if they catch it over your head.”

The Warriors set the tone on offense early, using a 13-0 run at the end of the first quarter to take a 14-4 lead, and they would maintain a lead of at least six until there was 6:20 left in the third quarter, when North Clay trailed, 32-27.

Back hit one of his three 3-pointers 90 seconds later, though, and Patoka was able to keep at least a six-point margin until there was 5:18 left in the game.

“We got some good shots when we got a chance to run our offense,” Eddy said. “We did a good job of getting guys in the right spots for layups or wide-open shots (by not forcing things).”

Patoka's previous season-high in scoring was set during a 66-44 win against Mulberry Grove on Dec. 6.

Patoka 72
North Clay 63

NC:     4-17-15-27—63
PHS: 11-18-17-26—72
Points: Budds, 18; Clift, 17; Back, 13; Wadkins, 11; Orrell, 8; Allen, 3; Jenkins, 2.
Rebounds: Clift, 9; Budds, 8; Wadkins, 4; Team, 4; Back, 3; Orrell, 3; Jenkins, 1; Dead-ball, 1.
Steals: Budds, 2; Orrell, 2; Wadkins, 2; Jenkins, 1.
Record: 5-10