GARNER -- Friday’s winter weather, if nothing else, served as a palate cleanser for area high school basketball fans. Along with every other high school event on the slate, it postponed until Feb. 6 the rematch between the boys’ teams from Garner and Clayton.
Instead of having a rematch just two days late of the classic 88-83 Trojan win on Jan. 23, the second meeting between the Comets and Trojans will allow for a little rebuild of anticipation of the contest.
Plus, it will allow the impact of the Trojans’ win and the performance of Clayton’s Gary Clark (42 points, 24 rebounds, 10 blocked shots) to sink in a little more.
The Feb. 6 game will more than likely determine the conference championship race.
Every game for both teams between now and then takes on a little more importance as they try to set up that near winner-take-all battle for the regular-season championship banner and a No. 1 playoff seeding.
We learned a lot about both teams in last week’s game.
The strengths of both teams were certainly evident. The contest showed how productive a team Clayton can be on the offensive end when Clark is the center of their offensive approach. It also show that Garner’s guards still makes the Trojans’ offense go.
Just as impressive were the parts of each team that could turn good seasons into seasons that include a trip to the regional championships.
For Garner, it’s the Trojans’ ever-improving rotation of post players. The big names of past seasons are gone and the height is as well, but players like Patrick Henneghan, Justin Baird, Foster Dunbar and John Alston are becoming an effective combination. They don’t tend to score on traditional sets but thrive on offensive rebounds (Garner had 14 against Clayton) and on being in the right spot when the drives of Trojan guards Julius Barnes, Demarcus Sanford, Sammy Saunders, etc., draw defenders away.
Clayton, meanwhile, has added a new option at guard with freshman Tre Armstead, who started Wednesday’s game. Armstead helped take some of the ball-handling duties for senior Anthony Gaskins, the Comets’ leading perimeter scorer at 17 points a contest. Gaskins was able to get loose a little more often for his long-range 3-pointers or drives to the basket with Armstead in the lineup. Another quick, aggressive guard to go with regulars Juwan Bizzell, Chris Dixon and shooters Jake Turner and Dawson Medlin will only make Clayton’s pressure defense better and its efforts to keep teams from completely collapsing on Clark.
Teams with contributing inside and outside games on both ends of the court are the squads I like when it comes to talking about who can play for a while in the playoffs. Garner and Clayton showed both of those in their first meeting of the season.
Their ability to keep that trend going forward will make those dreams of a trip to regionals a little closer to being granted.