News-Star: Sports

Murphy leads Clayton girls past Harnett Central

Put a “1” in the win column in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference standings for Clayton’s girls basketball team.

Senior guard Taisha Murphy, who missed half of the Comets’ first 18 games with a knee injury, was back in all-star form as she poured in 23 points to lead Clayton to a 53-40 victory Friday night over Harnett Central.

“It was finally good to get one (in the conference),” Clayton coach Marlon Lee said. “The girls have been playing hard. The main thing was being able to finish games. Coming off a tough (40-39) loss (to West Johnston) the other night, this one was big.

“It’s just good to get a win. Hopefully, we’ll build up a little confidence and this will let them know that if we can minimize the little things that we have been doing (poorly), the scoreboard is going to take care of itself.”

Murphy, a Richmond signee, flashed a hot hand from the outside and mixed in some drives to the basket to score her 23 points. She also had four assists with some nice passes inside.

Clayton (3-15, 1-7) opened a 14-4 lead in the first quarter and led 29-17 at halftime. Harnett Central (3-13, 1-7) got no closer than 11 points the rest of the way.

“Tonight I saw some good things from everybody offensively and defensively,” Lee said. “Hopefully this will be that little push that carries us on. It’s going to be tough. We’ve just got to understand that we have to value each possession.”

Clayton used a box-and-one defense for much of the game, shadowing junior Madison Turlington with one player and the other four playing zone. Turlington was held to four points.

“We wanted to take her out (of the game) and get her frustrated,” Lee said. “That is some of the things that we see on Taisha.”

Harnett Central was led by Michaela Cabe and Mariah McLean with 10 points each.

“We just couldn’t stop them defensively,” Harnett Central coach Chelsey Cabe said. “(Murphy) just gives them another threat when she is out there.

“We didn’t move as a team, we moved as individuals. We’ve just got to be quicker to the ball and more aggressive defensively.

“Offensively we had some good open looks and were more aggressive to the basket.”

Clayton has a tradition of winning teams in Lee’s 10-year tenure, making it to four sectional finals and one regional tournament. The Comets also knocked off perennial power Southeast Raleigh on its floor.

This season has been one of growing pains, with young players having to shoulder the load early while Murphy was out. The early struggles made the breakthrough win on Friday that much sweeter.

“All in all, a win is a win,” Lee said. “That was what we played for was to get that “W.” Tonight we did enough of the (positive) things that the scoreboard took care of itself.”