A loud and raucous Clinton faithful made the trip up I-40 as the time had finally arrived for the hometown Lady Dark Horses basketball team to take the court at Reynolds Coliseum for the NCHSAA 2A Girls Basketball Championship game against the North Surry Lady Greyhounds. The atmosphere was electric as thousands of fans from both schools filled the arena for the highly-anticipated matchup pitting the high-powered Horses against a defensive juggernaut.
Ultimately, it was the Lady Dark Horses who were victorious, taking down the Greyhounds, 59-49.
The Lady Dark Horses stormed out of the gate as Mikayla Boykin scored the first points of the game on a 3-pointer with 6:45 remaining in the opening quarter. Clinton quickly made it 5-0 after an Ashlyn Williams steal and assist to Alex Canady for two more. After an empty possession by North Surry, another Boykin 3-ball made it 8-0.
Clinton fizzled over the next few minutes however as North Surry mounted a 9-2 run to cut the deficit to 10-9 with two minutes left in the opening quarter. Boykin answered for Clinton with another pair of 3-pointers to stretch the lead back to 16-9. Still, North Surry wasn’t going away, as the Dark Horses clung to a two-point lead, at 16-14, after one quarter of play.
North Surry surged back to take their first lead of the game at 17-16 on a 3-pointer as the second quarter got underway. Clinton, however, reclaimed the lead on a pair of free throws by Williams to go back ahead 18-17. A back-and-forth game ensued the remainder of the first half as neither team could get any separation. That was until a late half surge by Clinton propelled the Lady Horses to a 32-26 halftime lead. Clinton’s all-everything Boykin was the leading scorer at the half by a wide margin with 17 points. Williams had six, Tanaziah Chestnutt had five and Canady had four.
The drama continued in the second half as the Lady Greyhounds scored four straight points to trim the margin back to 32-30. Clinton pushed the lead back to 33-30 after a Charica Joyner free throw. That margin stood for the next several moments as the teams traded missed shots until Boykin fed Canady on a fastbreak layup to stretch the lead back to 35-30. The Clinton faithful really erupted when Canady drained one from behind the arc with 2:50 remaining in the quarter to push the Dark Horse lead back to eight points, at 38-30, forcing a North Surry timeout.
Clinton built the lead to double-digits at 40-30 after a Canady drive to the basket for two points. Each team traded baskets to end the quarter but Clinton led 45-36 headed to the critical fourth quarter of play.
North Surry wasn’t done yet. The Lady Greyhounds trimmed the lead right back to five points at 45-40.
Right on cue, enter Boykin.
Clinton’s lead was back to 48-40 after a Boykin 3-point play. The teams continued to trade baskets over the next couple minutes with Clinton maintaining a 6-point lead at 50-44 after a North Surry timeout with 4:48 left in the game.
The Dark Horses continued scrappy and aggressive play down the stretch that North Surry struggled to counter. After a pair of free throws by Boykin, the Clinton lead was back at double digits at 55-45 with 2:49 remaining in the game.
The Lady Greyhounds continued scrappy play in an effort to draw a bit closer. Some late game struggles from the free throw line kept the game interesting, but North Surry couldn’t cut the lead to less than six points down the stretch.
Chants of “I believe that we will win” roared from the Clinton faithful as the seconds ticked away.
Boykin, whose moves frequently drew “ooohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd, capped off her senior season not only with a state title, but a 31-point effort that earned her MVP honors for the championship game. Canady was awarded Most Outstanding Player.
For a full rundown on all the action of the game, including final stats and players and coaches comments, check back online at www.clintonnc.com as well as Tuesday’s edition of the Sampson Independent for a full rundown by SI Sports Writer Mike Carter.
Reach Sports Editor Daron Barefoot at firstname.lastname@example.org.