Clinton took an impressive 61-45 win over a cold shooting Warren County team Wednesday night, advancing to the next round of playoffs Friday.
Warren County took an early 4-point lead, pushing the ball inside and drawing two quick fouls on Clinton’s Thaxter Spruill early in the first quarter. After a 30-second timeout, the Horses came out in their trademark full court press and quickly regained the lead, lifting the margin to 16-11 at the end of one period.
Warren County cut the lead to 1 at 20-19 with 4:34 remaining in the second quarter to draw as close as they would for the rest of the evening.
Dark Horses JC Evans and Jalen Banks pushed the issue and led Clinton on a 12-4 run to end the half. Evans capped the first half scoring by driving to the basket with 30 seconds remaining, splitting two defenders, dropping in the runner and drawing a foul. Evans completed the 3-point play to give Clinton a 32-23 lead at the break.
Warren County opened the second half in a full-court press of their own, quickly cutting the lead to 4. The Dark Horses quickly figured out the defensive change and stretched their lead back to 9 by the 4:45 mark of the third. Clinton gradually built an 11-point lead late in the third but saw Warren County rally to cut the lead to 8 at 45-37 by the end of the third.
Warren County’s shooting woes continued in the final frame as the Dark Horses added to their lead. At the 4:45 mark, Michael Boykin exploded down the lane, pulled up for a short jumper and was fouled on the play. The ensuing free throw completed the 3-point play and sent Clinton to its largest lead at 54-40. This play all but ended the visitors hopes of taking a road win.
“At this point of the season, it’s survive and advance” said Clinton’s head coach Randy Jordan. “We were able to do that again tonight (Wednesday). We went into a 3-2 zone in the second half to eliminate their high-post threat, and I think we were really good defensively. Our guards really stepped up for us. Michael Boykin, Jalen Banks, and JC Evans did a great job scoring off of dribble-drives and showed good patience,” finished Jordan.
Evans led the scoring for Clinton with 17, Banks added 13, Boykin, 11, Kenjuan Morrisey, 6 and OJ Morrisey added 4. The Dark Horses will travel to Southwest Onslow on Friday night to face the Stallions in the third round of the NCHSAA 2A Playoffs.
(Editors Note: Mike Carter is a contributing photographer for the Sampson Independent.)