By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Clayton Hess has had a target on his back all season. Tonawanda coach Hank Hughes knew that opposing defenses were going to focus on his star, but the senior has still put up big offensive numbers to carry his team on most nights.
He scored 27 points on Friday night against Cleveland Hill — more than half of Tonawanda's points — but it wasn't enough. The Eagles outscored the Warriors, 33-23 in the second half to secure a 55-47 victory.
The Eagles remain unbeaten in ECIC IV and the Warriors (5-6, 2-3 ECIC IV), now with three league losses, are trying to stay afloat in the league. Hughes said it's been even more difficult because his team isn't used to losing.
"The last two years, we're not used to losing at all," Hughes said. "Now it's happening a bit and I think Clayton is feeling a bit of the pressure. ... I think he's a tad overwhelmed and a little frustrated because teams are keying in on him so much. It's tough on a young kid, but he's doing a great job scoring."
The Warriors came out strong in the first quarter, holding the Eagles scoreless for the first five minutes. Hess scored 15 of his 27 in the first half and was hitting almost everything he put up — he sunk two step-back 3-pointers at the end of the first quarter to energize the home fans.
After 16 minutes, Tonawanda led by two and Hughes said after the game he was thrilled with the defensive effort his players gave all game, especially in the first half. But in the second half, Cleve Hill scored the first eight points and went on a 12-2 run. Tonawanda made a few runs and came within four with just over a minute left, but the Eagles converted their free throws to close out the win.
Hughes gave credit to the Eagles after the game, and said they simply took the Warriors out of their game.
"They overplayed our passing lanes and we really didn't headhunt on screens or rub off them real strong. I think we started to play a little timid. They're a really good defensive team. Sometimes it's not what you run, but if you have another scoring threat — right now it's tough. Some of the guys have to step up a bit and score for us."
Ben Stich finished with seven points, five rebounds and four assists and pressured Cleve Hill guards all game. Hughes said the team played well defensively and its work ethic and dedication on that end of the floor was outstanding. Now he's looking for more players to step up offensively and make a few shots.
Cleve Hill's Jordan Parker scored a team-high 17 points and Rayshawn Smalls added 10 in the win for the Eagles.
Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.