Clinton’s Lady Dark Horse won their first round tournament game Monday against fifth-ranked Croatan 47-34, getting back in the W column, according to coach Chris Owens, at exactly the right time.
The girls, who dropped to No. 4 in the 2A conference after back-to-back losses last week, will now face Northside Wednesday in a 6 p.m. game.
Clinton has lost two barn-burner games against Northside this season — the first time by 1 point in overtime and the second time, last week, by 3 on the Lady Horses home turf.
But before they could get to Northside, the Clinton girls had to take on Croatan, and Owens said he told the Lady Horses before they ever hit the court that it was now-or-never time.
“We had to change our mentality. I told them if you lose you go home, if you win or go on,” Owens said on the bus ride home from Richlands, where the first round games were played.
“We had to get our focus back. We lost two very tough games last week that knocked us out of No. 1. Both those games came down to the end, but we simply could not finish. We knew coming into this game with Croatan that we had to finish; we had to come ready to play and ready to execute our game,” the Clinton coach acknowledged.
The Clinton girls responded. Croatan tried to slow down the running game the Lady Horses like so much, but the varsity girls kept up their intensity and had the lead, at 10-8, after one quarter.
The Lady Horses added 10 more points in the second quarter and held Croatan to 6, taking a 20-14 lead into the half.
But it was the third quarter that showed Clinton’s intensity and the style of play they like so much.
“Our pressure defense gave them a lot of trouble, “Owens said.
And that pressure gave Clinton a lot of opportunities to score, particularly in the third period when the Horses held Croatan to 2 points while scoring 13 of their own to increase their lead to 33-16.
“We created 12 turnovers that resulted in some easy baskets for us,” Owens said.
Croatan tried to claw their way back into the game, scoring 18 points in the final frame, but Clinton stayed with them for much of the quarter, trading baskets and holding onto their sizable lead.
“The girls played a good game. I was really proud of them,” Owens said.
Courtney Pearsall led scoring for Clinton Monday with 15 points; Kristin Glasper had 13; Lexus Simpson, 8; Tamara Murphy, 6; Deasia Edwards, 3; and Bianca Owens, 2.
Clinton returns to the court Wednesday against Northside.
“We’ve lost to them twice, but they were very close games. We’ll be ready for them Wednesday night,” Owens said.
The Clinton coach said the Lady Horses will need to attack more in the game with Northside and get to the line more than their opponents. “And when we get to the line, we’ve got to make it count. We’ve just got to focus and play our game. If we can do that, we’ll be OK.”