The Clayton and Garner girls basketball teams were both desperately in need of a win last Thursday night as the two rivals squared off against one another.
For the first time this season, the Trojans found the winning touch and held off the Comets for a 48-46 home victory.
With Garner struggling at the foul line all night, the Trojans were forced to make some down the stretch and point guard Adaya Thorpe obliged, converting four of six chances in the game’s final minutes to hold off a pesky Clayton squad.
“We talk about (how) free throws win games,” Garner coach Hardwick Mays said. “I told them that we had to step up and knock down our free throws. We’re lucky to come out of here with a win because we left a lot of free throws on the line.”
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Thorpe hit both of her foul shots with 15 seconds left to give the hosts a 48-41 lead which proved to be just enough to hold on for the win as Clayton’s Taisha Murphy nailed a three-pointer and Janasia Cannon knocked down a jumper just before the final buzzer.
Before Thorpe stepped up for Garner (1-8, 1-2 Greater Neuse River Conference), the Trojans had missed 18 of 24 foul shots in the game.
Thanks to 14 first-half points from Gwen Creath, Garner built its lead to as big as ten points in the first half.
Gradually, the Comets (1-9, 0-3 GNRC) began to chip away at that lead and began the fourth quarter down just three points.
To start the final period, however, Clayton missed its chance to tie the game or possibly take the lead as it missed five of six free throws, missed an open look behind the three-point line and turned the ball over on its first five possessions.
“I told the girls tonight that, with a rival game here at Garner, records don’t mean anything,” Lee said. “We just got down early, we missed some easy shots and defensively we weren’t rotating like we should have.”
Alexis Teel led the Comets with 15 points while Murphy added nine and Mya Williams turned in an eight-point, six-rebound performance.
Murphy’s presence on the court, her first since an injury kept her out of the lineup over the first few weeks of the season, was a welcomed sight and the first of two such returns that will make Clayton a much tougher out the rest of the way.
“She brings a lot to the team,” said Lee. “When she went down, the morale went down. The girls were glad to see her on the floor tonight.”
Senior point guard Haley Wilkins will be rejoining the team over the Christmas break after her own injury has prevented her from playing thus far.
Garner’s Creath led all scorers with 18 points. Nia Jackson scored eight points for the Trojans while Briana Young collected 10 rebounds.
Important now for the Trojans will be the desire to stay hungry after getting its first taste of victory all season long.
“We’re not satisfied; now we know how to win, so now we’ll strive forward.” Mays said. “ We had to lose some games to learn our identity and what we do best. I think now they understand what we do best.”