Dec 18, 2013
KNIGHTDALE-- Behind 34 points and 15 rebounds from Cincinnati recruit Gary Clark, the Clayton Comets (7-2, 2-0) outlasted the Knightdale Knights (6-3, 1-1) on the road Tuesday night, winning 79-72 for their second conference victory of the year in the Greater Neuse River Conference.
Clark scored eight of his team's 17 first-quarter points as the Comets picked up an early lead on the Knights and maintained the cushion for the entire game en route to the win.
"I thought that we executed on both ends of the floor a lot better than we have most of the year, but we had to because Knightdale is a very good team," said Clayton head coach Denny Medlin. "I'm real proud of our guys tonight and the effort they gave."
The Knights struck first during the contest when junior guard Ronshad Allan-Shabazz sunk a deep jumper in the opening minutes of the game to take a quick lead, but Clark assisted on one basket and scored another by himself to establish a presence and get momentum turning in the direction of the Comets.
After his hot start, Clark found himself in foul trouble during the second quarter and was forced to sit on the bench for the majority of the period. In his absence, several other Clayton players picked up the slack, including Tre Armstead and Jake Turner. The Clayton backcourt put up enough points to keep pace with Knightdale's hot shooting, and the Comets led 38-27 at halftime.
Returning to the game for the third quarter, Clark made up for lost time midway through the quarter when he brought the Knightdale crowd to its feet with a powerful dunk. On Clayton's next possession, Clark worked the ball into the post and delivered another assault on the rim. The two highlights energized the Comet offense and gave the team the spark needed to stay ahead.
"Coach doesn't think I'm aggressive enough at times," said Clark. "He thinks I'm too passive or too nonchalant. Tonight in a big game like this, I knew I had to assert myself on the offensive end and the defensive end."
Despite plentiful scoring from Allan-Shabazz and other Knights including Marcel Johnson and Tre Fowler, Clayton scored enough points to carry a 55-47 lead into the fourth quarter. While Knightdale continued to threaten and pull the game close, Clayton squashed any hopes of a comeback by consistently scoring inside. The Comets ended up with a seven-point win.
"We had to withstand their punches because they threw in a lot of 3s," Medlin said. "I thought we rebounded pretty well at times, but Knightdale wouldn't go away. Hats off to them. It was a really good conference game."
While Clark is in his fourth year as a starter for the Clayton varsity basketball team, he said his big performance against Knightdale was worthy of cracking the list of his top-five best performances during his high school career.
"Gary was the most active and determined tonight that he's been this year, and we're going to need him to stay that way," Medlin said.
Armstead finished the game with 14 points for Clayton and Turner had 10 points as the two supplemented the scoring of Clark. Xavier Williams and Dawson Medlin scored six points apiece, Chris Dixon scored four points and Cameron Newkirk and Kevin Jones each scored two points.
In the loss, Allan-Shabazz led the Knights in scoring with 29 points. Johnson scored 15 points and Fowler scored eight points.
"It's a sigh of relief for one night, and tomorrow we have to worry about Garner for Thursday's game, because every game is a championship game," Medlin said. "Just like everybody else, we're trying to get the best record."
The Comets host the Garner Trojans on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m.
The Knights will play again on the road against Harnett Central on Thursday night.
Follow Zach Mayo on Twitter at @ZachMayoHSOT
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