The Clinton Lady Dark Horses welcomed the Lady Cougars of Southwest Edgecombe on Saturday night in third round action of the NCHSAA girls basketball playoffs. In a game that featured several big swings by both teams, it was Clinton that survived a furious second half rally by the Lady Cougars, winning 82-66 to set up a fourth round rematch with Northside-Jacksonville.
The first quarter started out with each team trading a pair of early baskets before the Lady Horses grabbed the 6-2 lead, resulting in an early-game timeout by the Lady Cougars. Out of the timeout, a pair of baskets by the visitors tied things back up at 6-6, but the Lady Dark Horses mounted a 9-4 run to retake a 15-10 lead and led 17-15 at the end of the period.
The second quarter was likely the most critical of the four as the Lady Horses unleashed a relentless assault on the Lady Cougars. Each team traded baskets to start the quarter but Clinton mounted a 15-0 run to build its largest lead of the half at 34-17. Southwest Edgecombe finally hit a 3-pointer to put an end to the Clinton run, but serious damage had already been done. To make matters worse, the Lady Cougars were leaving points at the free throw line as they missed several throughout the course of the game. At the end of the first half, Clinton had established a substantial lead at 39-22 as they outscored the lady Cougars 22-5 in the second quarter.
The lead swelled even higher at the beginning of the third quarter as Alex Canady drained a pair of 3-balls to propel the lead to 45-22. Faced with their largest deficit of the game, the Lady Cougars answered the call. Southwest Edgecombe, seemingly out of nowhere, mounted a 12-0 run over the course of the next three and a half minutes to cut the deficit to 45-34. Following a 3-point play, the Lady Cougars had cut the deficit back to single digits at 48-41. Fouls were starting to mount for the Lady Horses as Southwest Edgecombe was suddenly back within 6 points, trailing 51-45.
Mikayla Boykin was big for Clinton, closing out the third quarter as she helped the Lady Dark Horses hold an 8-point lead at the end of the period, 57-49.
The fourth quarter was no walk in the park for the Lady Horses as they couldn’t quite pull away from the Lady Cougars. On several occasions, Southwest Edgecombe would drop the deficit down to single digits but the Lady Cougars couldn’t overcome the hurdle. A calm, cool and collected Lady Dark Horse team finally began pulling away late to clinch the win, 82-66.
The contest proved to be Clinton’s toughest battle since their loss to 4A Millbrook earlier in the season.
“Defensively, the entire team has stepped up over the last couple games. Southwest Edgecombe was loaded with guards, probably more guards than we’ve seen since Millbrook, but the team stepped up,” said Clinton head coach Chris Owens.
Owens admitted that tonight’s game had an emotional overtone to it as well.
“The girls said they wanted to devote their efforts tonight to my cousin, who passed away recently. We had the funeral today and the team devoted their performance to her and the family. They really wanted to come out and play hard for them and they did and I’m proud of them,” concluded Owens.
Just as she has most of the year, Boykin led the Dark Horses with a game-high 42 points. Boykin also had 13 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and a block. Canady, who was in foul trouble for much of the game, still managed to score 15 points and contribute seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block.
Rounding out the scoring for Clinton was Ashlyn Williams with 12, Tanaziah Chestnutt with seven, Charica Joyner with four and Kiera Mabry adding two.
Clinton’s winning streak now stands at 20 and will be put on the line Wednesday night when Northside-Jacksonville — Clinton’s only 2A loss on the season — comes to town with a trip to the Regional Finals in Fayetteville on the line. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Reach Daron Barefoot at [email protected]