Clayton uses standout Clark to hold off Harnett Central

Gary Clark has 23-point, 22 rebound night

CorrespondentDecember 21, 2012 

Clayton's Jake Turner (20) drives through Harnett Central's Tre Rogers (44) and Grant Mace (3) for an easy basket.

DEAN STRICKLAND — newsobserver.com

— After his team’s 12-point halftime lead had disappeared in the first four minutes of the third period, Clayton coach Denny Medlin had a simple message to his team: Make sure Gary Clark touches the ball at least once on every offensive possession.

The unbeaten Comets followed instructions. And their big guy delivered.

Clark, a 6-foot-7 junior, scored five of his game-high 23 points over the final 3:30 of the third period as the Comets went on a 14-2 run to build their lead back to 51-40 and went on to post a 69-55 victory over Greater Neuse 4A Conference rival Harnett Central on Wednesday night.

“I don’t think we played very well at all, but we ended up winning, so that’s a sign of a pretty talented team,” said Medlin, whose team improved to 9-0 and 2-0 in the conference. “Obviously, we want to throw [Clark] the ball more often. We’ll learn from this game and we’ll play better.

“During that stretch, we did some good things offensively, but other than that … we need to move the ball better, get Gary more touches, have more intensity.”

Clark finished with 22 rebounds, scoring his points inside and on transition. He registered three dunks -- much to the delight of the Clayton crowd. His first basket, and the first of the game for the Comets, came on an alley-oop dunk three minutes into the first quarter.

“I usually get my teammates pumped up when I dunk,” Clark said. “Especially if it’s an alley-oop. So I just try to run [and get in position for a fastbreak dunk]. Any time I can dunk it, I dunk it because I know it gets our fans excited.”

Clark also had several blocks, including a swat-away in the final minute of the third quarter that he picked up and dribbled coast-to-coast to get a 3-point play on the other end.

Junior guard Dawson Medlin added 15 points, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the first quarter when the Comets opened up an 18-10 lead. Chris Dixon had 12 points.

Harnett Central (4-6, 0-2) got 18 points from Hunter Baker and 10 from Tre Rogers.

Down 42-30 at halftime, the Trojans scored the first eight points of the second half and led 38-37 after a Rogers basket with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter.

“We talked about it at halftime that it was still do-able,” Harnett Central coach Will Gage said. “I thought we did a decent job and then when you got through spans where you don’t play very smart offensively and don’t play hard defensively, it balloons in a hurry.

“And [Clayton is] so athletic. When you have a post guy who can bring it end to end in transition, that’s hard to deal with. But I give our guys credit, there were a lot of times we could have rolled over and said, ‘This is going to be a 25-point loss.’ I thought we played hard to the end.”

But in the end, Clayton had a little too much Gary Clark. Even on a night when the Comets weren’t at their best.

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