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Clayton's Clark puts damper on NHHS home opener


New Hanover's Brad Hitchman looks to pass while driving to the basket against Clayton at Brogden Hall on Tuesday. (Photo by Photo by Matt Born)


Tuesday night's home opener for New Hanover's boys basketball team was supposed to be a chance for the defending 4A state champions to show their new lineup.

Instead, Clayton's Gary Clark stole the show.

The junior forward unloaded 33 points, 16 rebounds and 7 blocks to lead Clayton to a 64-46 win at Brogden Hall.

"He's a high-major player," New Hanover coach Kirk Angel said. "He's special."

New Hanover entered the game with few returning players on the roster, and missing senior center Nigel Holley to illness. Clayton entered the game with a bone to pick after losing twice to New Hanover last season, and wasted no time in settling the score.

Clark went to work early. He scored 20 points in the first half on 10-of-14 shooting as Clayton built a 33-24 halftime lead. New Hanover adjusted to a box-and-one to limit Clark in the third quarter, holding the forward scoreless for eight minutes.

But even without Clark's scoring, New Hanover wasn't able to make up any ground. Because of the attention paid to Clark, Clayton guard Anthony Caskins found room to work. He scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half to let Clayton extend its lead.

Angel said some of Clayton's offensive success came off youthful mistakes from New Hanover.

"They're not a great team," Angel said. "They've got two really good players, one exceptional. And maybe, if we get our hands up on defense, one of those guys doesn't hurt us as bad."

Offensively, New Hanover struggled to shoot, especially on the perimeter. Senior Trevon Brown led the Wildcats with 11 points, but Angel said even Brown struggled to find his shooting groove.

"Trevon didn't hit shots," Angel said. "That's not usually what's going to happen."

The loss is the first for New Hanover since Jan. 16, and even though the Wildcats have essentially a new team, Angel said he hoped his players would take the loss as a wake-up call and not get disheartened – especially as a tough nonconference schedule continues.

"I hope it was (a wake-up call)," Angel said. "My job as a head coach next week is to play mental doctor to make sure we come back strong."

Clayton coach Danny Medlin said that even with the roster turnover for New Hanover, his team took pride in the win.

"New Hanover has earned respect in our state," Medlin said. "As coaches, we understand these are two different teams. But the programs are the same. So because we respect them as a program, it's a good win."



Girls

Clayton 38, New Hanover 28


Clayton's full-court pressure stifled New Hanover and gave the Comets a 38-28 win Tuesday night.

New Hanover showcased a solid offense in the first quarter with forwards Alex Simmons and Kapria Pressley scoring, and led 13-7 after the first period.

But Clayton ratcheted up the defensive pressure and wrecked New Hanover's offensive flow for the rest of the game. The Wildcats had four turnover stretches in both the second and third quarters, and scored just 15 points in the final three quarters.

Pressley led the Wildcats with 10 points while Simmons added six.