CLAYTON — After his teams 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 dont think we played very well at all, but we ended up winning, so thats 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. Well learn from this game and well 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 its 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 dont play very smart offensively and dont 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, thats 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 werent at their best.