Clinton’s varsity Dark Horses advanced to the second round of the 2A conference tournament with a decisive 58-37 win over Swansboro Monday night, and they did it with great help from their bench.
The conference co-champs will now square off with South Lenoir Wednesday, a team they’ve split wins with already this season. The Horses lost to South Lenoir by 10 points on the Blue Devil court, then handed them a 20-point loss when they came to Clinton to play.
Now they’ll face each other on neutral territory, at Richlands, and coach Randy Jordan said who will come away with the win will all come down to intensity — and the amount of organized havoc his team can create on the court — when the two teams meet.
“The key to us getting a win will be our intensity. We’ll have to play good pressure defense on their guards and we’ll have to do a good job inside, attacking the basket and controlling the boards. If we can do those things, we’ll be in a good position to win,” Jordan said.
On the line is the opportunity to keep advancing in the conference tournament, and Jordan said his Dark Horses know what’s at stake.
“Really, it will all boil down to who wants it. If you want something, you’ll work hard to get it, and we’ll have to work hard,” the coach stressed.
“If we created the havoc we’ve talked about all season, then we’ll be OK. If we come out, stay competitive and show our desire to win, our intensity level will be there and we should be fine.”
Although Clinton got the win Monday night, Jordan said he didn’t really see the intensity from his starters that he had seen throughout the season.
“I wasn’t really happy with how they were playing,” the Clinton coach acknowledged.
The Horses led by only 2 after the first quarter, 12-10, and by only 6 at the half, 22-16.
“I just wasn’t seeing the drive, the execution and the intensity from my guys, Jordan stressed, “so we made the decision to start our gold team when we came back after the break.”
The Gold Team, including Jaylan Banks, O.J. Jones, Wyman Faison, Justin Parker and Alphonso McDew, came off the bench on fire, showing exactly what Jordan had hoped.
“I sat our top 7 players down and started with our second team. I went with the kids that wanted to play hard. And boy did they,” Jordan said.
With the Gold Team on the floor, Clinton went on a 21-4 run, with the Horses diving for loose balls, taking charges and executing plays in a rapid-fire pace.
“I could not be prouder of what those guys did. It was huge for us and for them. It boosted their confidence level and it gave us even more leverage for this tournament and the state playoffs.”
In a 12-minute span, the Gold Team gave up only 8 points, an amazing feat for the young group. “In 12 minutes time, that’s all the points they allowed South Lenoir to get. It was a great defensive effort on the part of the team and that group of guys,” Jordan stressed.
“Because of that effort, our journey continues.”
Banks led scoring for Clinton Monday with 13 points. Other leading scorers were Jones with 8; Faison, 8; Parker, 4 and McDew, 4.
While the intensity level wasn’t where he wanted it to be from his starters Monday, Jordan said he has seen his entire team grown all season, something that will benefit them as they continue on their quest.
“I’ve seen it growing game by game this season. I guess we were due a night where our intensity was off, but it’s something you don’t want to see. But these guys go at it with everything they have. In fact, everything we do, even our practices, are high intensity. To be competitive, we have to be,” Jordan said.