With leading scorer Taisha Murphy relegated to the bench after picking up her fifth foul midway through the third quarter Friday night, Clayton girls basketball coach Marlon Lee knew someone was going to have to step up offensively for the Comets.
Someone did — sophomore forward Maya Williams.
Williams hit two key baskets after Garner scored seven straight points in the third quarter and went on to finish with nine points as the Comets held off Garner 36-26 in a Greater Neuse River 4A Conference game.
Clayton (4-15, 2-7 GNRC) had to revert to an early season mindset after Murphy fouled out. Murphy suffered a knee injury in the opening game of the season and missed the team’s next nine games.
“We’ve been in this situation about 10 or 12 games anyway,” Lee said. “We’ve played without Taisha. We’ve been in these (type of) games all year. Tonight we made enough good plays and got a few defensive stops and we were able to finish it out.
“We still missed a ton of layups and a ton of free throws. … These are the type of games we have been losing all year. But we fought until the end and were able to pull it out.”
Garner (2-13, 2-7) trailed 21-12 at halftime. After a Clayton basket made it 23-12, Garner went on a 7-0 run to pull with 23-19 — getting five points during the run from freshman Khayla Guy.
Clayton’s Williams responded with a pair of inside baskets and Au’Shonna Langley scored with 52 seconds left in the third quarter to push the lead back to 10 points at 29-19.
Murphy had nine points for the Comets, and was big in the second quarter when Clayton outscored Garner 13-4 to open up the 21-12 cushion. Murphy had five points in the run, including a 3-pointer.
Garner got nine points each from Guy and Adaya Thorpe.
“We can’t make layups and we can’t make free throws,” Garner coach Hardrick Mays said. “Our defense played well but we didn’t play (offensively) like we did the first time we played them. And that was the difference.”
Garner won the first game between the teams by a 48-46 score, but the Comets were able to turn the tables on their court – thanks to some big buckets from Williams and a strong defensive effort the whole game.
“Maya is our energizer on offense and defense,” Lee said. “She always keeps playing hard and the other girls (follow her lead). We played hard till the end. In the second half, we were kind of able to wear them down a little bit because we played just about everybody in the first half.
“It was a good win, a rival game. A good Friday night here in Clayton. The girls stuck in there until the end. I’m proud of them.”