Holiday Invitational

Clark, Clayton look for first Holiday Invitational title

Posted December 11, 2013

Clayton Gary Clark (11)  during the Garner vs Clayton game on  February 22, 2013  in Garner North Carolina.

Clayton High School’s boy’s basketball team is coming off a very successful season that ended in a loss to Seventy-First High School in the regional round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-A state playoffs.

After winning the Greater Neuse River Conference title, Clayton earned the overall No. 1 seed in the state playoffs. They defeated Hoggard in overtime in the third round, 59-54, to advance to the regional tournament. The Comets were eliminated in the regional semifinals by Seventy-First, 84-68.

“It was a long time coming because we had worked to get to regionals several times and we fell short every time. We had some gut-wrenching losses in the past, some last second shots and things like that. It was a sigh of relief to get there,” Clayton coach Denny Medlin said.

While the loss in the regional semifinals wasn’t the outcome Clayton had hoped for, it was a learning experience for the team.

“Now we know what it tastes like to get there, and we’re hungry to get there again, and hopefully get even further,” said Medlin.

If Clayton will make a run in the post season this year, it will be in large part to senior big man Gary Clark. The 6-foot-7 and 215-pound forward brings a lot to the team.

“He brings offense, rebounding and shot blocking. He provides opportunities for other guys to score because he draws so much attention,” said Medlin. “He can dominate in the paint. He can get guys in foul trouble, and he can help us take care of the ball.”

Clark is one of the most talented players from North Carolina in the Class of 2014, and in September, he verbally committed to Cincinnati.

Even after announcing his college commitment, Clark was much more focused on the team goals for the upcoming season.

"We have great goals as a team this season," Clark told after committing to Cincinnati. "The whole team is on board and ready to get after it. The seniors want to go out with a bang."

Medlin says the Holiday Invitational is the perfect place to jump start their goals for the season.

“It’s a really good gauge and it’s a good measuring stick,” Medlin said. “I think the opportunity for us is unique because our kids here are Clayton kids. They grew up here, they went to middle school here, and now they’re in high school here.”

Clayton is making its fourth all-time appearance in the Holiday Invitational, but they have yet to win a championship.

“We’ve got to recognize that we belong there and that we can play with anybody,” Medlin said. “We can’t go in there feeling like we’re underdogs. We’ve got to develop that mindset that we can step out on the floor and win the tournament.”

Follow Nick Stevens on Twitter @NickStevensHSOT


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