Clinton’s varsity Dark Horses are in Raleigh for a holiday tournament designed to hone their skills and give them a stronger competitive edge. And while the 2A team lost to a much larger 3A Oxford Webb High School team Wednesday night, their coach saw great promise in his team, something he believes they will use as they return to the court next week and conference play.
The Horses fell to Oxford in the High School OT Holiday Tournament 88-58, but play again Friday morning at 11 a.m. against a powerful 4A Apex High School.
The score of Wednesday’s game, coach Randy Jordan said Thursday, in no way reflects the tenacity of his team nor their competitive edge.
“We were competitive all night,” Jordan stressed about his Dark Horse team, currently 7-1 overall and 1-0 in 2A conference play. “Just after that first game, the guys now know that if they play hard and believe in each other, that they can play with anybody. They proved it.”
In the Wednesday game, Clinton was down by only 5 in the first quarter but, Jordan said, failed to accomplish some key things in the second period, allowing the larger Oxford team to gain ground and take over the game. In the third period, the coach said, his Horses played a pretty even game with Oxford. And in the final frame, he began substituting players, emptying his bench to give the guys some experience while Oxford continued to utilize its main players.
“We held our own and that pleases me. It also gives these guys some great experience. They are up here competing with teams across the U.S. and with guys who are considered some of the top college basketball picks. At Oxford Webb, for example, we were playing with a guy, Isaiah Hicks, who is already committed to play at UNC. And, against Apex, a very large 4A team, their point guard is rated No. 1 in the state and the team is coming off a 26-4 season.”
The point, Jordan stressed, is that going up against tough teams like these gives Clinton great experience as they prepare to enter the conference season.
“It’s real good experience for these guys. It’s a program-building for us, no question. This kind of play prepares us for our conference schedule, which is our goal every year,” Jordan stressed.
The four-day tournament, held at Broughton High School in Raleigh, brings 20 high schools from across the U.S. to play against one another. Teams come from as far away as Texas, New Hampshire and New Jersey to compete.
Clinton, Jordan said, has been privileged to be invited to play. “It’s based, in part, on marquee players, and since Thaxton Spruill is considered among those, it, along with other reasons, gives us a chance to be invited.”
Spruill is ranked in the top 100 prospects east of the Mississippi.
Jordan expects Clinton to be competitive in their morning game against Apex, but he said it would also be a challenge.
“That’s important, though, to challenge these guys. It really does help them gear up for the conference, which will move into full swing next week,” the CHS coach said.
Clinton will return to the court, and conference play, next Wednesay, Jan. 2, when they travel to Croatan.
Dark Horses who scored in Wednesday’s game against Oxford included Shian Bradshaw with 21 points; Ryan Chester, 12; Demontio Bryant, 10; Spruill, 9; Wil Pearson, 4; Greg Smith, 4; Zach Underwood, 4; and Osharmine Jones, 2