The varsity teams split the wins as Clinton traveled to Lakewood on Monday for their one and only non-conference meeting this season. The Dark Horse boys brought home the 52-77 win, while the Lady Leopards fought tooth and nail to come up victorious at 66-60.
The girls teams played from beginning to end like it was a championship game, and the score stayed knotted for most of the first quarter. Lakewood managed to claim a small lead briefly in the second period before Clinton got it back at 28-27 with 40 seconds left in the first half. The Lady Leopards answered with a goal from the paint and a fast break off of a rebound to end the half at 31-28.
Lakewood held onto the lead throughout the third quarter and managed an 8-point lead before the Lady Dark Horses tied it up again at 44 to start the fourth quarter. A fast break moved Clinton ahead by 2 points, but Leopard senior Bianca Moore coolly put down two free throws to tie the score again 50.
Leopard rebounding and lay-ups moved Lakewood ahead by 7 points with 3:36 left in the game. Clinton’s Lexus Simpson broke the Horses’ drought with an inside shot, and then intense man-t0-man coverage by the Dark Horses kept Lakewood off the boards until Teisha Rich finally found the back door to move the score to 59-52. Clinton answered with a shot in the paint.
In the last two minutes of the game, Lakewood senior Brittney Boykin hit 5 of 6 free throws. Clinton’s Courtney Pearsall hit two 3-pointers in the last 40 seconds, but time ran and the Lady Leopards managed to hold on for the 66-60 win.
A relieved and happy Lakewood head coach Lofton Kerr said he expected the game to be a close one. He said these teams play each other in the summer league, creating an intenese rivalry, as well as great friendships, between the girls and the two coaches.
“I expected it to be a close game. We made some plays in the first quarter that I think helped us win the game. Coach Owens got his team prepared and we had to play them hard. It could have gone either way, but we were good on the free throw line and that helped us. It was a good game,” he said.
“Last year Clinton gave us our first loss, so we did it to them this year,” Kerr added with a big smile. The Leopards were undefeated in conference play last year and made it to the Eastern Regional finals. The 2A Clinton girls handed them their one and only loss during the regular season.
Clinton head coach Chris Owens said he knew this was going to be a hard-fought game and he said he planned to use it as a benchmark on what his team needs to improve on. “Lakewood is a great team and very well-coached. Coach Kerr pushes his girls and has created a great program. This game could have gone either way. It came down to who executed the plays.”
Coach Owens said his team needed to rebound better, and foul trouble hurt, too.
“I love playing Lakewood. It gets us prepared for conference play and we are all friends,” he added.
Leading all scorers was Clinton’s Pearsall with 32 points, 5 of those were 3-pointers. Simpson scored 11 and Kristen Glasper and Tiandra Johnson each scored 6 points. The Dark Horses move to 3-1 in non-conference play.
For the Leopards, Boykin was top scorer with 26 points that included 7 of 10 free throws. Teisha Rich had 15 points; Bianca Moore 5 points; and Tasha Rich 12 points, which were all 3-pointers in the first half. The Leopards remain undefeated.
For the varsity boys, Lakewood took a quick 6-2 lead and held on until a technical foul shifted the momentum and gave the edge to Clinton. By the end of the first quarter the Dark Horses were up by 7 points and a key Leopard was in foul trouble.
The rivalry was just as intense in this game as in the girls’ game, and a Dark Horse was saddled with a T 14 seconds before halftime.
Clinton’s quickness and ability to create turnovers and steals could not be matched by the Leopards, though, and by halftime Clinton was up 27-36.
By the end of the third quarter, Clinton had extended their lead by 25 points and went on to win 52-77.
Leading all scorers were Clinton’s Demetrius Bryant and Ryan Chester, both with 21 points. Shian Bradshaw scored 12 and Zach Underwood, who was all over the floor creating turnovers, scored 10 points.
For the Leopards, Mike Smith was the leading scorer with 12 points. Kendrick Davis was close behind with 10; Ryan Emfinger, 8, and Patrick Rich, 7 points.
This is Clinton head coach Randy Jordan’s first year with the Dark Horses and he said both he and his team were growing and learning.
“I thought the first half we didn’t defend or rebound very good. The second half we played Clinton basketball. We went on a 30-4 run. It’s a growing process with this first year. Anytime we get a win in the county it’s a great win,” he said.
The undefeated Dark Horses travel to Union on Friday.