In the first meeting between the Clinton Dark Horses and the Midway Raiders earlier this month, Clinton seized control early and sprinted away in a 33-point shellacking. This time around, before a packed house in the Raiders gymnasium, the victory didn’t come nearly as easy. Using a strong second half performance, Clinton was able to shake the Raiders off and secure the 76-59 victory.
The story of the first half was momentum swings as each team was able to string together runs to keep a close game throughout the opening half.
The first quarter saw two such swings. After falling behind 2-0 off the opening jump, Midway’s Greg Orr and Adam Butler each sank three-balls and after an Austin Raynor layup, Midway had reeled off eight unanswered points to go up 8-2, immediately prompting a Clinton timeout.
Cue the second run of the game, this time by the Dark Horses. Clinton’s Jeremiah Pope and JJ Robertson keyed a 12-0 Clinton run that would give the Dark Horses the lead back at 14-8. The teams were pretty much even the remainder of the quarter but a buzzer-beating basket by Tyion Wright gave Clinton their largest lead to that point, at 21-13.
Clinton appeared to be poised to pull away at the start of the second quarter, but Midway was having none of it. The Raiders mounted a 10-0 run to reclaim the lead at 23-21. The teams exchanged the lead a few times over the next few minutes, but the halftime break would come about with Clinton narrowly leading, 36-33.
The second half was off to a promising start for the Raiders as Malik Sankey knocked down another three-pointer for Midway to tie the game back up at 31-31, but this triggered what would be the start of things slipping away for Midway. The Dark Horses scored eight unanswered to reclaim the lead and would go on to outscore the Raiders 24-15 in the quarter to take a double-digit lead headed to the fourth quarter, 60-48.
Clinton continued to put distance between themselves and Midway as the fourth quarter progressed as the Dark Horses completely seized control en route to building a 25-point lead at 76-51. The Raiders would score the final eight points of the game but Clinton took home the win, 76-59.
After the game, Midway head coach Matthew Creech admitted that Clinton was able to find their groove in the second half, which helped them get the victory.
“(In the first half) we moved the ball well, got good shots, and held them in the half court, but in the second half we just ran out of gas. Clinton was able to get several transition points off of our turnovers and overall they made more plays,” Creech asserted.
In the other locker room, Clinton head coach Randy Jordan echoed similar thoughts.
“We played well tonight. We struggled a bit in the first half to get into an offensive flow, but credit Midway as they had us playing at their tempo,” Jordan stated. “In the second half, we got in sync on both ends of the floor. We were able to pick up the tempo and got our offense going. Defensively, I felt we did a really good job as we held them to 26 points and we were able to convert their turnovers into points.”
“We got better tonight and that is what we are looking to do at this time of year,” Jordan continued. “We have four conference games to play and we control our own destiny as far as that goes. We are happy to be where we are but it seems like the guys are looking for more, so we are excited to see where we can go.”
Offensive leaders for Midway were Jamar Autry with 14 points, Raynor with 13 and Sankey with nine. Butler and Orr added seven and six, respectively.
For Clinton, Pope had a game-high 26 points, Dewan Lesane notched 17 and Kris Williams had 14.
Midway falls to 9-9 overall and is 4-5 in the Four County Conference. They will be back in action on Tuesday as they travel to Wallace-Rose Hill. Clinton improves to 17-2 overall and 10-0 in the conference and will also travel on Tuesday to take on Union.
Reach Daron Barefoot at [email protected]