CLAYTON — Clayton’s high-powered inside-outside combination was too much for a good Southeast Raleigh team Friday night.
Center Gary Clark poured in 26 points while Anthony Gaskins added 24, leading the unbeaten Comets to a 73-61 win over the Bulldogs in their Greater Neuse River 4A Conference boys basketball opener.
Clayton improved to 7-0 while Southeast is 3-3.
“Southeast Raleigh always gives you a good battle,” Clayton coach Denny Medlin said. “When you play them you know they’re going to play hard for four quarters.
“We want to work inside-out and we depend on those two to score points. And other guys filled their roles well tonight. Juwan Bizzell had a great game attacking the basket, and Jake Turner came off the bench and did a good job for us.”
William Walker led the Bulldogs with 21 points.
“I give our guys a ‘B,’” Southeast coach John Baker said. “We could have played harder. But it was a great atmosphere and a great high school ball game. Clark shot a lot of free throws and made most of them, and that was a big difference. He’s the player of the year in the conference, no question, so you’ve got to be ready to go.
“Willie Gaskins had played AAU ball with him and they’re best friends, so I had him defend his best friend figuring he knew him better than anybody else. We disrupted some things Clayton did, but they kept their composure.”
Clark dominated in the paint throughout the game, pulling down 20 rebounds and blocking eight shots.
“We played well as a team,” said the 6-7 junior, who has scholarship offers from nine Division I schools. “That was really important since it was our first conference game.
“We were able to take control in the fourth quarter because we executed better and started getting stops on defense.”
Clayton appeared ready to blow the Bulldogs out with an 18-9 first-quarter run, but Southeast closed to within 30-26 at halftime.
“We played hard,” Walker said. “Clark is dominant and bigger than anybody. I think we did a good job on him. He’s just that dominant and there’s not much else to say about that.
“We’re growing as a team, getting used to each other. We work hard in practice and in games. We’re going to get it.”
The second half was nip-and-tuck until the final five minutes, with seven lead changes – the last coming on Gaskins’ 3-pointer for Clayton to make it 54-52 with 7:06 to go.
The Comets led 65-58 following a Walker jumper with 3:55 left before Clayton put it away with 10 straight points.
“We played well,” Comet guard Gaskins said. “I wasn’t able to distribute tonight as much as I’d like to, but we came out with a win.
“Southeast played hard and physical, but we knew they would. They have a good team.”