BENSON — When Clayton’s basketball team fell behind 10-0 at West Johnston on Friday night, Comets coach Denny Medlin pulled his starters and let them watch for a while.
Medlin didn’t say a word to his players as they watched the deficit grow to 12-0 with the substitutes in the game. But the Comets got the message.
“It was just about playing hard,” Medlin said. “We want to work inside-out, but we were just coming down and jacking the ball instead of moving it. We came out flat, there is no doubt about it.”
The starters came out with 5:14 left in the first quarter. Four of them returned a minute and a half later. By the end of the quarter, the Comets (14-1, 5-0 Greater Neuse River 4A Conference) had pulled within 14-11 and went on to score a 60-42 victory.
The Comets never found their outside touch, missing their first 17 3-point attempts. So junior center Gary Clark went to work inside, scoring 24 points and blocking six shots. Guard Anthony Gaskins had 21 points, mostly on drives to the basket.
West Johnston (2-11, 0-6) hung with the Comets for nearly three quarters. Down 27-20 at halftime, the Wildcats cut the margin to 38-35 on a 3-pointer by Channing Joyner with 2:50 left in the third period.
Gaskins finally broke the Comets’ drought from beyond the arc, hitting a 3-pointer with 1:06 left in the third quarter. Clark then dunked in a follow shot and Gaskins added another 3 to put the Comets up 48-37 at the end of the quarter.
“I thought West’s kid came out and played hard,” Medlin said. “Sometimes the expectations on us are a little unrealistic because we win by 18 and we are talking about what went wrong.
“We do have high expectations on ourselves. But it’s a road win in the conference and we’ll take it and move on to another one. I’m not happy about the way we started but I am happy about the way we finished.”
Channing Joyner had 14 points to lead West Johnston, which had a much different start against Clayton than it did on Tuesday when it fell behind 22-0 after a quarter against Garner.
“We had a very good day in practice yesterday,” West Johnston coach Kris Bennett said. “I thought it carried over. We played hard. We executed our game plan well.
“We picked our times to run. It just helps out when you hit your first couple of shots and start feeling pretty good about yourself.”
For Clayton, the good things didn’t come for a while on Friday night. But in the end, the Comets had that winning feeling again.