Smithfield: Sports

New confidence helps Clayton get by West

Clayton relied on some of the confidence it found in a stellar half against East Wake’s girls basketball team last week to avenge an earlier loss to West Johnston on Tuesday night. The Comets, who led by 11 at the half, turned back each Wildcat rally attempt and grabbed a 48-37 victory.

On the boys’ side, Clayton overcame a slow start to pull away for a 63-47 victory and a season sweep of West.

Lead sticks this time for Clayton girls

There wasn’t the need for a reminder for the Clayton girls of what happened the last time they built a double-digit lead against West Johnston. The Wildcats pulled off a wild rally — complete with an odd play involving an official — to record their first girls basketball win in school history over the Comets.

“The last time we played, we had a 10-point lead and they fought back,” said Clayton coach Marlon Lee, whose team moved to 4-9 in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference. “Tonight we did a better job against them on offense and defense.

“We wanted to make it hard for Christian Sanders to score. She did a great job of scoring singlehandedly at times.”

Sanders led all scorers with 23 points. And every time the Wildcats (4-9 conference) temporarily cut Clayton’s lead to single digits, it was the quick guard putting the ball through the hoop.

After teammate Nadia Blevins hit a 3-pointer to get West within 33-23, Sanders scored on West’s next possession to get within 33-25. But, just as it had at the end of the first half on a Cassandra Bennett follow up shot of a teammate’s miss, the Comets answered with Brooklyn Barbour grabbing a rebound of a teammate’s miss and drawing a foul going back up for a shot with 0.7 seconds left in the quarter.

“We did a good job on the boards,” Lee said. “When Cassandra gets involved, she can be a big spark for us. Getting those baskets at the end of the quarters was a big help to maintaining the lead.”

Aushonna Langley hit a jumper on Clayton’s next possession and the double-digit lead was back.

West did get within nine two more times, but Comets’ senior guard Taisha Murphy converted a three-point play with 3:42 to play to push the lead back to 14 points. Murphy had 20 points in the night.

“The first half against East Wake (on Feb. 6) that we played did a lot for our confidence,” Lee said. “We saw what we can do and know that we can play with that kind of team when we do the things we can do well consistently.”

Comets pull away in second half

The first half of the boys game featured matching slow starts by both teams. There were seven lead changes and three ties in the first 16 minutes of play. Clayton scored 10 of the last 14 points of the second quarter to take the lead for good.

A Kevin Jones’ 3-pointer started the push in front for the Comets (5-8 conference). Jones had a game-high 19 points, while Tre Armstead chipped in 16 for Clayton.

Ryan Holmes led West Johnston with 11 points. Scott Chesnutt and Cameron Williams had eight points apiece.