Clinton hosted Bartlett Yancy in the nightcap of the opening day of action in the Dark Horse Holiday Classic on Monday night. The talented Dark Horses used pressure defense and a fast break offense to turn back a determined Buccaneers squad and advance to Tuesday’s championship game with the 78-66 decision.
In a first quarter played at a frenetic pace, neither team seemed to be able to hold on to the ball. Both squads were slowed by numerous turnovers and poor shooting. The Bucs missed several point-blank shots, and Clinton committed several turnovers in a sloppy first frame.
Clinton eventually took command and pushed out to a 17-14 advantage at the end of the first quarter. The Bucs got to within one point at 25-24 midway through the second quarter, but Clinton went on a 12-4 run to end the half and pushed their lead to 37-29 at intermission.
The Dark Horses came out on fire to start the second half, opening up a 13 point advantage in the first couple of minutes of the third quarter. But Bartlett Yancey was not to be denied, as the Bucs applied some pressure of their own and cut the lead to nine, 58-49 by the end of the third.
The Bucs continued to press the Dark Horses and early in the fourth quarter they had trimmed the Clinton lead to a single point with less than six minutes remaining in the game. At that point Clinton’s Jeremiah Pope took the ball down the left side of the lane, carrying two defenders with him to the bucket, dropping a layup over the front of the rim to ignite the home crowd and reinvigorate his teammates. The Dark Horses secured the game as they did a better job of protecting the basketball, breaking the Bartlett Yancey press, time after time for easy scores down the stretch, eventually building their lead back to the final margin at 78-66.
The Dark Horses were led by Jaquan McLean with 16 points and Xavier Howard with 10 points. Logan Batchlor, Jeremiah Pope, E J Howard and J J Robertson added nine points each and Tyion Wright and Kris Williams dropped in 7 and 6 points respectively. Bartlett Yancey’s L Sherman led all scorers with 17 points in the losing effort.
After the game, Clinton head coach, Randy Jordan, commented on his team’s growth, saying, “We got a little bit better tonight, and I’m happy about that, but we continue to be sloppy on some things and we are just not executing on the little things at times. That is what we have to get better at, we have be sharper and execute better.” Jordan felt that his team did a poor job of putting the Bucs away early in the second half, adding “we have to get better at closing teams out, we got a nice lead early in the third quarter and just seemed to lose focus and they got right back in the game. We have to learn to put the petal to the metal and keep it there and put teams away when we get them down.”
Jordan was happy to get the win and advance to the tournament championship.
“We got a good win and are looking forward to playing Cedar Ridge for the title tomorrow night,” he said. “That should be a great game, we need to continue to mature and sharpen our execution everyday.”
The win over Bartlett Yancey improves Clinton’s record to 6-3 overall and 2-0 in conference play. The Dark Horses will tip off against Cedar Ridge at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in their final tune-up before getting into the thick of their conference schedule next week.