While Clayton’s boys and girls teams are finding success on the hardwood, Greater Neuse River 4A Conference rival West Johnston’s teams are both winless in league play. They met Tuesday with the Clayton girls racing to a 67-22 win, but coach Denny Medlin’s boys found themselves in a battle before pulling away in the final four minutes for a 68-57 win.
The wins set up a celebration planned for Friday, when the Comets will host East Wake. That night the gym will be named for former longtime Clayton coach Jeff Adams, who led the Comets to the state 2A championship in 1976.
“This is a great honor for one of the best coaches in the state,” Medlin said. “It’s a longtime coming, for a great coach and a great man.”
Clayton coach Marlon Lee and senior forward Maya Williams were glad to see their team get back on track after losing by 41 points to Southeast Raleigh. The Comets are now 11-5 and 3-3.
For West Johnston coach Laura Jefferson, every time out is about a young team working hard to get better. The Wildcats are 3-11 and 0-5.
Sophomore Asia Todd (21 points) and junior Janasia Cannon (19) led the winners, while sophomore Miracle Austin’s six points topped West Johnston. Clayton led 13-3 after the first quarter and 31-12 at halftime.
“We want to press and trap teams full court, that’s our game,” said Williams, a starter since her freshman year. “And that sets up a lot of our offense.”
Coach Lee also pointed to the Comets’ defense as the key to their success.
“Maya anchors the back of the defense with here athleticism. She deflects a lot of balls,” Lee said.
Wildcats coach Jefferson loves the effort she gets from her team.
“We’re a young team with a great work ethic,” Jefferson said. “This is the first team I had the worked out over the Christmas break. When practice ends at 5, I have to chase them out at 5:45. We have a really good point guard in Kaitlyn Tucker, but she’s a freshman. She’s gone from middle school to facing girls who will be playing Division I next year. We’re playing a lot of freshmen and sophomores and I know their hard work will pay off. Maybe this year, maybe next, but they need to see a positive outcome.”
Medlin said his team (9-6, 4-2) has been up and down all year and that’s how Tuesday’s game went.
“We won the first and second quarters, then lost the third, but won the fourth,” Medlin said. “We did what we needed to, to win the game. Hopefully our best basketball is still ahead of us.”
Both Medlin and West Johnston coach Scotty Williams pointed to the play of sophomore Karsten Crumpler, who came off the bench to spark the Comets after the Wildcats rallied to tie the score 42-42 late in the third quarter.
“He got every key rebound for us,” Medlin said. Crumpler scored eight, while senior Martavis McLamb led the winners with 18. MaCaleb Robertson and Kenny Anderson scored 11 each.
Will Bowser (14) and Jalin Graham (11) led the Wildcats.
“We’re going through a growth process,” said coach Williams, whose team is 2-13 and 0-6. “Erron Davis and Will Bowser have been good leaders and Jalim Graham is a junior who can do some big things. We just need to make key decisions in key situations and we will get some wins. We’re growing, but it’s hard not to get impatient.”
Crumpler is looking for his team to get better.
“I know when I come in I need to play with intensity and rebound,” Crumpler said. “We’ve got leaders in Anderson and McLamb and Robertson, they can all handle the ball. We also know in this league we have to play well everytime out.”