The Clayton boys basketball team acquitted itself well for two quarters of play against the Mid-South 4A Conference champions, Fayetteville Seventy-First, last Friday night in the opening round of the 4A NCHSAA state playoffs.
The athletic Falcons continued to come right at the Comets in waves in the second half, however, and pulled away for a 75-51victory in the opening round of the 4A NCHSAA playoffs.
With its man-to-man defense not working well in the opening two quarters of play, Clayton (12-13) switched to a zone to try to minimize the damage the 71st guards could inflict.
The result was a momentum-building run at the end of the second quarter to get the Comets to within eight points at halftime after falling behind 36-22 late in the half.
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“I think if we could have played zone against them all game, we could have played with them,” veteran Clayton coach Denny Medlin said. “We tried to go man in the first half and they scored every possession so we went right back to the zone. When we did that, we played with them for a little while in the first half and made a little run on them.”
The Falcons, however, intent on grabbing back the momentum they begrudgingly surrendered at the end of the second period, forced their guests to come out of the zone in the second half by holding the ball for the first two minutes of the quarter before running any offense.
With the Comets being forced to come out and pressure the 71st back-court, the Falcons were then able spread the floor and to go to their bread-and-butter: dribble penetration.
Seventy-First (23-2) proceeded to reel off the first nine points of the second half on four assisted baskets created by getting into the lane and dishing off to cutting players to take control of the game.
“That was a big key,” Medlin said. “We came out the third quarter and immediately they pulled us out; that hurt us because we just had a hard time guarding them.”
Joshua Bryant led the Falcons with 13 points. Tyler Thomas had 12 points, Chris Thomas pitched in with 11 and Omari Wilson also ended his night in double digits with 10.
Unlike in the first half, Clayton wasn’t able to answer the Falcons’ run with one of their own and never drew any closer than 14 points the rest of the contest.
“When they went on runs, I didn’t think we helped ourselves because we started going for the 10-point basket, which there isn’t one,” Medlin explained.
Tre Armstead led all Clayton scorers with 13 points. Kris Bobo and Kevin Jones each tallied eight points, while Daron Davis added six.