News-Star: Sports

Clayton handles Harnett Central zone

Things are starting to come together for Clayton’s basketball team.

Using a ball-hawking defense that led to numerous turnovers and fastbreak baskets, the Comets ran past Harnett Central 51-40 on Friday night for its third straight victory.

“I feel like hopefully we are turning the corner and playing better,” Clayton coach Denny Medlin said. “Four games ago, I thought we played pretty well against East Wake in a loss. So we’re playing a little better right now. That’s what we are trying to do is get better every day.”

The Comets (8-10, 3-6 Greater Neuse River 4A Conference) turned up the heat defensively in the second and third quarters after trailing 12-9 at the end of the first period. Clayton outscored Harnett Central 27-11 over the middle two periods to lead 36-23 at the end of the third quarter.

Tre Armstead and Kevin Jones led the way for the Comets with 16 and 11 points, respectively. Armstead, Jones and Macaleb Robertson spent the game applying pressure to the Harnett Central guards, trapping the Trojans’ players and coming up with steals and forcing turnovers.

“We did a good job of recovering after we trapped,” Medlin said. “So we didn’t give up layups. We were able to continue pressing and the turnovers starting mounting up for them.

“The biggest thing that I think happened tonight … was that we moved the ball well against their zone. We got good looks and didn’t turn the ball over too much. That is what I was most pleased with.”

Harnett Central (8-8, 2-5) jumped to an 8-0 lead, getting a pair of 3-pointers from Stanton Herman and a bucket from Anthony Staton. Clayton whittled the lead to three by the end of the quarter and took control from there.

“They did a very good job,” Harnett Central coach Will Gage said. “They beat us everywhere, on the scoreboard, on the defensive end and on the offensive end. We just got outplayed.

“I thought we came out and played hard for the first 3½ minutes. It wasn’t just that we scored some early baskets but we played good on defense. The second and third quarters were the difference in the game.

“We didn’t played hard defensively and we didn’t play smart offensively. We played right into third hands. But I give (Clayton) credit. They had a good game plan and they executed it.”

Anthony led Harnett Central with 13 points but was the lone Trojan in double figures.