Shortly after a youth rope-jumping performance at halftime, the Clayton Comets made a huge leap of their own in the Greater Neuse River Conference girls basketball standings.
The Comets withstood a spirited effort from host West Johnston and went on to outlast the Wildcats 46-40 in overtime Friday to remain in the mix for a possible postseason spot out of the GNRC in the 4A state playoffs.
The back-and-forth contest featured nine lead changes before Clayton delivered six points in the extra session, compared to zero for the Wildcats.
Clayton finished off the varsity sweep in the boys outing by pulling away late in the third period en route to defeating West Johnston 76-47 behind 29 points from senior guard Tre’ Armstead. The Comets poured in 11 3-pointers against the Wildcats’ zone defense and never trailed.
While the boys contest was void of late suspense, the girls event wasn’t determined until Clayton found a surge in overtime after being unable to hold a lead in the closing minute of the fourth quarter.
“It was an uphill battle,” said Clayton coach Marlon Lee, whose club improved to 7-8 overall and 2-3 in the GNRC. “We made enough plays to be able to pull it out. Missed free throws and turnovers were how we got into that predicament. It’s a conference win that we definitely had to get. It was also our seventh victory of the year, and we only had six all of last season.”
The Comets appeared to be in charge when Au’shonna Langley nailed a trey from the left corner to send her team ahead 40-37 with 2:14 remaining in regulation.
But Clayton missed two front ends of one-and-one situations in the final minute, and West Johnston (2-13, 0-5) forced overtime when Nadia Blevins connected on a 25-footer from the right arc at the 18-second mark.
Blevins’ heroics, however, would prove to be the final points for the Wildcats, who were plagued by missed shots and turnovers in the extra session.
“This was one of the better games we’ve played as a team this year,” said West Johnston coach Laura Jefferson. “We are a young group with three freshmen on our varsity. Overall, we were very pleased. This group works hard, and that’s all you can expect them to do. We did so many good things, but we also made some mistakes that really hurt us. And we missed some easy shots.”
Neither club could score in overtime until Clayton’s Endaisha Howard grabbed a rebound and went coast-to-coast for a layup with 55 seconds left. After an unsuccessful West Johnston possession, Janasia Cannon sealed the victory for the Comets with two clutch free throws at the 10-second mark.
Asia Todd, who paced Clayton with 18 points, tacked on two more freebies just one second in front of the final horn.
Langley added 12 tallies for the Comets, while West Johnston received a combined 26 points from Christian Sanders (14) and Blevins (12).
Thanks to the victory, Clayton remained tied for fourth place in the win column in the eight-school GNRC.
In the boys game, Clayton (12-3, 4-1) began the outing with an 11-2 spurt, only to see the Wildcats quickly counter back to within 13-10.
That theme would continue the Comets finished the rivalry showdown with a 25-4 surge that began late in the third period.
“We came out and jumped on (the Wildcats) and went ahead,” said Clayton coach Denny Medlin. “I substituted all five guys, and all of a sudden the lead went down. I feel like I took some of our momentum away, but we responded. West Johnston came out and played hard. It was a conference win, so I’m not complaining.”
Medlin’s squad started to gain some space when Armstead canned a 30-footer at the buzzer of the third frame to push the Comets’ cushion to 55-43.
McCaleb Robertson opened the fourth stanza with a pair of threeballs and Armstead offered an old-fashioned 3-point play in acrobatic fashion in transition as Clayton sped ahead 68-43 with 4:09 remaining.
While the Comets were smooth in transition and nailing treys seemingly at will, the Wildcats (0-15, 0-5) would go over five mintues without scoring. West Johnston only registered one basket over the final 9:53 of the contest.
Eighteen of Armstead’s points came in the opening half, while Robertson came through with 13 markers. Balanced scoring was a key for the Wildcats as Ryan Holmes topped his club with 10 points, followed by Cameron Meyers and Adam Steen with nine tallies apiece.