RICHLANDS — Clinton’s conference tournament hopes were dashed Friday night in a fiercely competitive battle with Northside, a team the Dark Horses split wins with during the regular season. Final score was 74-62.
But the loss, said coach Randy Jordan was not indicative of how the Clinton varsity boys played Friday night.
“I’m very proud of these young men,” Jordan stressed after the game. “They gave it all they had. Their effort was great from beginning to end. They played hard.”
But, the Clinton coach said, the Horses were beaten by the “superlative” effort of Northside’s Jamal Parker, who scored a game-high 29 points. “He’s a great player and he basically carried his team on his shoulders.”
The game started out pretty even, with the two teams trading baskets as the 2A conference championship got under way. At the end of one, Northside was up 12-9.
Then Clinton opened up an intense scoring effort of their own in the beginning of the second quarter, but Northside and Parker wouldn’t go away.
“I think the turning point came right before the half,” Jordan recalled. “Parker hit two quick 3-pointers that cut our lead to 5; I really believe that’s when the momentum shifted.”
Clinton took a 35-30 lead into the half. But the lead would disintegrate quickly in the third quarter as Parker and Northside opened up a scoring frenzy of their own and suddenly Clinton was trailing 54-48.
Twenty more points in the fourth and final frame for Northside gave them the edge and the tournament win.
“It was a good game. We didn’t get the win, but our guys gave it all they had. We’re still conference champions and now we’ve got to get ready for our second season, as we start the state playoffs,” Jordan said.
Ryan Chester was Clinton’s leading scorer with 13 points. Osharmaine Jones, Shian Bradshaw and Thaxter Spruill added 11 each.
Clinton heads into the state tournament as the No. 2 seed of their conference, behind Northside who took the No. 1 spot with the conference tourney win.
Jordan tipped his hat to Clinton’s great fan base which, he said, had shown tremendous support all season and in particular during this last week of conference tournament play.
“I want to thank all the fans for their support. It means so much to these young men and to me. We are so grateful for it,” Jordan said.
Clinton’s boys will open the state playoffs at home Monday versus South Columbus. Game time is 7 p.m.
The Lady Horses begin their journey through the state playoffs at Jordan-Matthers in Siler City. Their game also begins at 7 p.m.