Clayton 78, Smithfield-Selma 45

Clayton's' Clark comes up big against Smithfield-Selma

CorrespondentJanuary 4, 2013 

— Gary Clark just didn’t do much in the first half of Clayton’s game with Johnston county rival Smithfield-Selma Friday night.

But boy, did the big guy make up for it after the break.

The 6-7 junior finished with 25 points including three rim-rattling dunks and a pair of 3-pointers, leading the Comets to a 78-45 victory over the Spartans in a Greater Neuse River 4A boys’ basketball showdown.

Clayton improved to 12-1, 3-0 in conference play with the win in its raucous gym, while much-improved SSS fell to 7-6 and 1-3.

“Our third quarter was good,” Clayton coach Denny Medlin said. “We just talked about finishing strong around the basket. We missed a lot of easy opportunities and layups early. It was more of doing what we were doing, but just being more intense around the goal. It was nothing we said; they just went out there and played great.

“Smithfield-Selma has a good team, and we have to guard against letting this affect us when we play at their place. They’re tough to defend, and we just had one of those third quarters. This is a tough place for a visiting team to play when we’re at home on Friday night and this place is rocking.”

Anthony Gaskins added 16 points for the Comets while Chris Dixon chipped in 12.

Robert Franklin led the Spartans with a career high 17 points while Montrel Shepherd chipped in 13.

“We did a great job on Clark in the first half,” SSS coach James Robinson said. “We had a bad last minute of the half and it turned into a snowball effect. We need to grow some resilience.

“I thought we did everything we needed to do the first 15 minutes of the game, and nothing after that. We did what we had to do early in the game, and if he’s going to shoot threes, we’re happy. We just didn’t do what we needed to do in the second half. We need to be more resilient when something negative happens.”

Clark had a double-double, finishing with 11 rebounds and five blocked shots.

“I had put on a lot of gear (including shin guards) before the game, but I just came in at halftime and took everything off,” Clark said. “I wasn’t comfortable.

“Tonight I played OK. I started off slow because they were playing a box-and-one and it was really, really hard. In the third quarter I came out with a lot of energy.”

The Comets led 30-24 at halftime after trailing 10-8 after the first period.

SSS’ Quantez Leach hit six quick points to help his team to an 8-1 lead with 4:05 left in the first period.

Clayton took its first lead at 11-10 with 6:55 left in the half on the first of Gaskins’ trio of 3-pointers in the second period. There were three lead changes and a tie in the period, with the Comets’ Juwan Bizzell finishing the scoring on a three-point play with four seconds left in the half.

“I tried to come off the bench and give some energy,” Franklin said. “They came out more focused than we did in the second half and Clark took over. We played a good first half, but when we came out flat in the second we let the game get away from us.”

And after halftime, Clark – who had just four points at the break – flat took over the game. He scored Clayton’s first 14 points of the second half, beginning it with a thunderous dunk at the 7:31 mark, followed by back-to-back 3-pointers.

“We got some great work from our big man,” Dixon said. “Gary played hard. He’s a good player. It’s fun to watch him.

“We knew we had to play hard tonight because (SSS) is a very good team.”

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