Clay-Battelle’s third state semifinal appearance in school history
CHARLESTON — March is in full swing and the Clay-Battelle boys basketball team is looking to cause some madness as it faces off against the number one team in Class A James Monroe in the semifinals of the state basketball tournament in the capitol city Friday afternoon.
The fourth-ranked Cee-Bees (19-6) earned a spot in the semis by way of a 60-52 victory over Webster County in the opening round Tuesday. It is Clay-Battelle’s third-ever trip to the state semifinals.
The Mavericks (23-2) defeated C-B 91-55 in a regular-season meeting on Jan. 15. In fact, JM hasn’t lost a game since Jan. 7 and is on a 16-game winning streak.
The Mavericks are led by WV Gatorade state player of the year winner Eli Allen. The senior is averaging 21 points, 9.1 assists, 7.6 rebounds, and 3.1 steals per game this season. In JM’s 74-32 semifinal win over Cameron, Allen nearly had a quadruple-double with a stat line of 19 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, and eight rebounds.
“Allen is a fantastic point guard who is their leading scorer, but who also can dish the ball and find the open man,” C-B head coach Josh Kisner said on Thursday. “They are a disciplined team that has been here before.”
Along with Allen’s 19, three other players scored in double-figures in the quarterfinals. Kisner and his side know it will take more than just stopping Allen to earn a spot in the championship game.
“We have to make sure we stay on their shooters and keep a hand in their face,” Kisner said. “When they miss shots it is imperative that we get the defensive rebound.”
The Cee-Bees will look to their size and experience to aid them against the Mavericks. The forward duo of junior Colby Barr and sophomore Preston Luzader combined for 46 of the 60 points scored for C-B in its victory over Webster County. Luzader also pulled down 16 rebounds in the contest. Barr finished the game with an efficient effort of 9 of 14 shooting from the field and 11 for 17 from the free throw line.
“Our team chemistry and tough road to get this far has helped us become a much better team throughout the season,” Kisner said. “We have a chance tomorrow as long as we take care of the basketball against their pressure, eliminate our turnovers, and make the easy shots around the rim.”
In the win over Webster, C-B allowed 25 offensive rebounds and committed 16 turnovers. WC attempted 77 total shot in the game, although only 20 went through the net. Against a team like JM, 77 shot attempts could result in triple-digit scoring.
“They have some good size and they run some very good half-court sets,” JM head coach Matt Sauvage said of C-B. “It will be important to put good pressure on them and limit the easy baskets inside.”
The Cee-Bees and Mavericks will tip off this afternoon at 1:00 P.M. from the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.
The winner will move on to the Class A championship on Saturday at 12:30 P.M. against the winner of the second semifinal between Tug Valley and Tucker County.
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