The Joe Clark era got off to a good start Friday night, albeit, in hostile environment.
The newly hired Eldorado head coach had to scratch and claw in his coaching debut against a scrappy Gallatin County bunch, but was able to hold off the host Hawks in a 71-62 victory.
"We work hard yearly at it and it feels good when the kids are rewarded for their hard work," Clark said. "I'm glad the kids got the opportunity to feel success, especially early on because it helps you get off to a fast start, which is important."
Eldorado (1-0) were led by three players in double figures as Tyler Deaton scored a game-high 23 points, while Nathan Burnett put in 17 points and Richard Graceffa tacked on 13 points.
Gallatin County (1-1) put four players in double digits as Marcus Wargel led the Hawks with 16 points, while Seth Ramsey came off the bench to score 13. Jared Jackson put 12 points, while Austin Russell finished with 10 points off the bench.
Clark noted how the strength of Deaton was key in the Eagles opening the season in the right side of the column.
Despite some early struggles in the first quarter, where the senior point guard was 0-of-4 from the field, Deaton finished the game 9-of-12 shooting including nine points in the second and third quarter.
It was Deaton's coast-to-coast bucket to close out the first half that gave Eldorado a 31-29 lead going into the locker room.
Midway through the third quarter, after Gallatin County had erased a eight-point deficit and cut the lead to 58-56, Deaton gave the Eagles a little more breathing room with a bucket to pull ahead 60-56.
"Players make play and when we needed them, the best players make the best plays," Clark said. "I thought Deaton and (Derek Mayberry) stepped up in those particular roles."
Mayberry had four points, all of which came in the games final eight minutes and grabbed a team-high five rebounds.
Both squads played to a 14-all tie and participated in a track-meet like conditions as Gallatin County's speed and full court pressure forced Eldorado into 24 turnovers.
But it was the defense, or the lack there of, by Gallatin County that didn't sit well with head coach Robert Patton.
"I wasn't pleased with our defensive intensity," he said. "We got beat back a lot (Friday) and we have to get our rotation down on the press if we're going to beat anyone. We gave up too many shots and Eldorado didn't miss very often."
Eldorado finished 29-of-48 from the field, including a 10-of-17 performance from the free throw line.
"Eldorado played well, they're big and they're athletic," Patton said. "They matched our intensity, but I just wasn't pleased on the defensive end."
Page 2 of 2 - With the turnovers becoming evident, Eldorado had to put a premium on shooting.
Clark said that was even more crucial in the second half, where the Eagles had seven turnovers in the third quarter, but were able to take a 51-43 lead going into the fourth.
"The philosophy going into the game was if Gallatin County was going to run, so were we," Clark said. "(Friday), we were able to get away with it. A week from now when we see them again, we might not get away with it.
"Obviously I wish we would have been smarter, and a little more timely in a few situations, but overall I'm proud of our performance."
Dylan Lawrence and Ben Partridge had seven points for the Eagles, while Adam Partridge tacked on two points.
Mitchell Ramsey finished with five points for Gallatin County and Chandler Scates had four points.
Both Eldorado and Gallatin County will compete in the Harrisburg Invitational, which starts today (Monday) at Davenport Gymnasium. Eldorado will take on Carmi-White County at 6 p.m., while Harrisburg opens its Class 2A title defense against Gallatin County at 7:30 p.m.
On Wednesday, Gallatin County will take on Carmi-White County at 6 p.m., followed by Harrisburg and Eldorado at 7:30 p.m.
The Tournament wraps up on Friday night with Eldorado and Gallatin County, squaring off for the second time in a week's span at 6 p.m., followed by Harrisburg and Carmi-White County at 7:30 p.m.
Michael Dann can be reached at email@example.com or follow on twitter at www.twitter.com/spydieshooter
Eldorado 14 17 20 20 - 71
Gallatin County 14 15 14 19 - 62
Eldorado (1-0): Deaton 9-17 1-3 23, Lawrence 3-4 0-0 7, Graceffa 3-6 6-8 13, Burnett 8-11 1-3 17, Mayberry 2-2 0-0 4, A. Partridge 1-2 0-0 2, B. Partridge 3-4 1-2 7, E. Partridge 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 29-48 10-17 71.
Gallatin County (1-1): M. Ramsey 3-8 1-2 5, McGuire 0-4 0-0 0, Jackson 4-11 3-4 12, Wargel 7-10 2-2 16, Scates 2-5 0-0 4, S. Ramsey 5-10 0-0 13, Russell 4-9 2-2 10. Totals: 24-58 8-10 61.
3-pointers: Eldorado 2-7 (Deaton 1-2, Lawrence 1-1, Graceffa 1-3). Gallatin County 4-17 (M. Ramsey 0-3, McGuire 0-3, Jackson 1-4, Wargel 0-2, S. Ramsey 3-5). Rebounds: Eldorado 27, Gallatin County 21. Turnovers: Eldorado 24, Gallatin County 16.