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Published Sat, Feb 09, 2013 08:00 PM
Modified Sat, Feb 09, 2013 05:59 PM

Garner girls have turned the corner, top Clayton

- newsobserver.com
Clayton's Amber Caudle goes in for a layup after a steal as teammate Jenna Harris (10) and Garner's Adaya Thorpe (23) watch.
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- Correspondent

CLAYTON -- Garner just hasn’t been the same team lately in girls’ basketball.

The once cellar-dwelling Trojans are suddenly on a winning streak.

And on Wednesday night at rival Clayton, they got their sweetest victory so far this season.

Kelsey Bryan led the way with a career-high 21 points as the Trojans shook off a partisan packed house for a 62-61 victory that extended their streak to three games.

The result gave the Trojans a split of the season series and improved them to 3-14, 3-8 in Greater Neuse River 4A play, while Clayton fell to 11-7, 4-7.

Kiyana Stokes and Khayani Chandler added 17 points apiece for Garner.

“We got our team back, first of all,” veteran Trojan coach Hardrick Mays said of the streak. “We’ve been missing two players and three players, including Kiyana. We’ve only had our whole team for the last four games.

“We’re coming together for the first time. It’s about respect now. Nobody respects us. They don’t even think we’re in the conference. Now we’re just taking them one game at a time. I’ve been telling Kelsey to shoot, and she took her shot tonight.”

Vanessa Pitts led Clayton with 21 points, while Amber Caudle chipped in 16 points and Jenna Harris 13.

“I thought our problems started in the first quarter,” Clayton coach Marlon Lee said. “That’s a different Garner team and they came in ready to play. We were making unforced turnovers all night long.”

The contest was close throughout, with neither team ever leading by double digits. That was at the end of a 6-0 Clayton run in the second quarter, ending in Tajah Clark’s free throw with 3:25 left that made it 23-14.

The Comets led 13-11 after the first period, but the teams each scored 14 points in the second quarter and 16 in the third.

“This feels great,” said Stokes, who missed four games with a concussion. “I know a lot of people have been doubting us. But lately we’ve been playing strong and finishing games hard.”

Garner took its first lead since the first five minutes when Stokes hit a pair of free throws with 31.8 seconds left to make it 60-59.

Bryan then hit two with 24.1 to go to essentially seal the outcome, with Pitts scoring Garner’s final points on a layup with four seconds left.

“I was just feeling it tonight,” Bryan said. “I just trusted my shot and let it go. We’ve got Kiyana back and we’re just going for it. All or nothing. I don’t remember having that much pressure on free throws, ever. I’m just glad I hit them.”

Clayton has now lost four straight games.

“Garner played a lot better tonight than when we played them before,” Harris said. “But we beat ourselves. We made too many turnovers and gave them too many open shots, but give credit to them for hitting them.”

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