The Clinton Dark Horses gutted out a tough win during the second round of the playoff Thursday night against North Lenoir. After a tight first two quarters Clinton opened it up in the second half, winning it big 74-46.
“We really gutted this one out,” said head coach Randy Jordan. “I’m really proud of our effort, how much tougher we were than them in the second half and, overall, just the way we competed.”
The first got off to a slow start with neither them able to find a basket until about half way through the quarter. It took until the 4:57 mark before North Lenoir drew first blood, the Horses answering with their first basket seconds later. From that point onward it was all Clinton with them controlling the pace for the rest of the period, the score after one 16-5.
North Lenoir didn’t let that 11 point lead faze them as they woke up in the second quarter owning the pace throughout. Outscoring the home team by eight they had four times the production than in the previous period stacking 20 points. Meanwhile, the Horses failed to keep up going for just 12 before the break. With tough play on both end of the court North Lenoir closed the gap to only three points, at halftime Clinton narrowly led 28-25.
“We knew that they were going to come out and play really tough, which they did and they controlled the tempo,” said Jordan. “We talked about that in the locker room during halftime and told them we have be more physical and tougher in the second half. We were the tough team and it showed in the way we competed and, when we really compete with people, we can be pretty good.”
From the opening minutes of the third quarter it was a different ball game everything work in the home teams favor. Most notable was the fact they held North Lenoir to 21 points for the rest of night. By the end of the third period the Horses had pushed their lead back to double digits, winning the quarter 18-11. With a 10 point lead going into the fourth at 46-36 they blew the game wide open in the final eight minutes.
There was nothing North Lenoir could do to stop the roaring Horses offense in the final frame. Every aspect of the game was working starting with the defense holding them to only 10 final points. With the offense sparking they had their most productive quarter in the fourth with 28, punching their thicket to the third round.
“Again I can’t not say enough about how proud I am of the overall way we just competed, we were the tougher team in the second half and it’s what gave us this win,” Jordan concluded.
Kris Williams lead the attack this go around finishing with 18 on the night. Dewan Lesesne was right on his heels ending with 16. Xzavier Howard and Zion Autry also played well, Howard finished with 13 and Autry had 11. Tymair McIntyre was huge coming off the bench, he end with nine.
With the win the Dark Horses advance to the third round. They’ll face off against Southwest Onslow in their next matchup at home on Saturday. See clintonnc.com for coverage.
Reach Michael Hardison at [email protected] Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @SampsonInd.