Coach Eddie Gray said he knew it wouldn’t matter what the score had been when his Garner team had last played Clayton.
The Comets weren’t going to be humiliated again Tuesday night.
And they weren’t.
Junior guard Thomas Allen poured in 25 points and led four players in double figures as the defending state 4A champion Trojans held off Clayton for an 88-78 win.
Javonte Sims added 13 points, Davon Newton 12 and Alex Reed 10 with nine rebounds for Garner. Kenyon Burt had 11 rebounds for the Trojans.
Clayton put five men in double figures, as Darius Stevens led the charge with 16, followed by 15 from Zach Greene, 13 from Tre Armstead, 12 from Macaleb Robertson and 10 from Kenny Williams.
In the girls’ game, Gwen Creath led the Trojans with 13 points as they never trailed in a 52-49 squeaker.
Both Clayton teams will host West Johnston on Friday night, while both Garner teams visit Knightdale.
Dominant third lifts Garner
Garner (19-2, 11-0 GNRC) won the previous boys' meeting in Clayton 81-45 on Dec. 17.
Clayton (16-5, 8-3 GNRC) has won eight of its last 10 games.
Garner led 40-37 at the half after winning the second quarter 28-22 behind eight points from Allen.
"Coach (Denny) Medlin had a great game plan and they did a great job carrying it out," Gray said. "I told our kids before the game we had just had an outstanding game at their place, and that that wouldn't happen again. Clayton is too well-coached and has too much pride. I told them if they weren't ready to play they would be in trouble."
The Trojans had a safe-looking 63-46 lead after three quarters, but Clayton kept coming.
The Comets' closest approach was 75-70 with 2:20 to go, but Allen responded with two straight layups and Reed added another bucket to make it 81-72 with 1:44 to play.
"We like to play fast and Clayton was able to slow us down," Allen said. "We know we played a great team, and fortunately we made some plays in the last few minutes."
Clayton had a stretch in each half where it held the ball for several minutes to keep the game close and entice the Trojans to come out of their zone.
"We got better, I hope," Clayton coach Denny Medlin said. "We lost that game before Christmas. We've got good guards that really play hard. Garner is really talented and loves to play fast. We did a good job, but in the end we just made too many mistakes."
Trojan girls help sweep
Creath finished with the 13 points and Khayla Guy added 12 as Garner swept the season series.
Garner (6-13, 3-9) won the previous girls' meeting 64-59 in Clayton on Dec. 17.
The Trojans took a 5-2 lead on Yasmine Mercurius' 3-pointer with 6:07 left in the first and led the rest of the way.
"We hit some good shots out of our offense," Garner coach Hardrick Mays said. "It just seems like the girls get up for Clayton, but Clayton played a tough game, too. Our defense just stepped up and came together when it mattered."
Au'Shonna Langley led Clayton (6-13, 1-9) with 19 points and Endaisha Howard added 15.
"We were definitely prepared tonight," said Clayton assistant Gennette Pulley, who directed the Comets as head coach Marlon Lee was away at his Smithfield Town Council meeting. "We had worked hard on our zone offense. After the first quarter I just told the girls to erase them and move forward and that's what we did."
Garner led 21-19 at halftime.
"I think after the talk coach gave us at halftime we were able to push the ball the way we were supposed to," Creech said. "We were getting good shots. In the second half we played a lot better defense."
The Trojans looked ready for a blowout, taking advantage of the Comets' six-minute scoring drought to go up 14-2 on an Ariona Crutchfield 3-pointer with 57 seconds left in the first.
But Garner went on a three-minute drought early in the second, then went up 18-13 on the first of Nia Jackson's back-to-back layups at 5:04.
Langley hit a pair of free throws for Clayton with 11.5 left in the half to make it 21-19 at the break.
"We knew we still had more game," Langley said. "There was plenty of time left. Both teams came for each other. We're kind of rivals and that happens every time. I feel good about how hard we played and how we didn't give up."
Garner led 36-28 after three periods.
Clayton's closest approach in the fourth was at 47-45 on an Endaisha Howard layup with 2:49 left.