CLAYTON — Monday night’s boys basketball clash was a case of two teams getting exactly what they needed seemingly. Clayton in a position where it needed its vaunted trapping defense to create turnovers and easy baskets and Apex in a position to let its senior leadership and ball handling thrive.
Apex’s strength won out in a 60-47 boys basketball victory.
Senior guards T.J. Evans and T.J. Wells handled the pressure defense of the previously unbeaten Comets, creating open looks for the Cougars that allowed them to pull away for a relatively comfortable win.
"We’ve got two guards who have played since they were sophomores and they’re just awesome with the ball in their hands," said Apex coach David Neal. "They did a good job of keeping the ball moving and getting it to the open man."
Evans finished with a game-high 25 points as the Cougars (2-2) finished the first half with a 18-2 scoring run after trailing 20-8 early in the second quarter.
"I was proud of my guys for getting through that without having to call a time out," Neal said. "They did a good job of regaining their composure, went on a six- to eight-point run, forced Clayton to call a time out and settled down. We got back into our offense, got out and ran a little bit."
The Comets (6-1) built their early lead on the strength of their offensive rebounding, pulling down 11 of the first 14 offensive rebounds in the game.
Those second chances slowly went away against the Cougars’ defense, which often collapased around 6-foot-8 University of Cincinnatti signee Gary Clark once he touched the ball inside. Clayton wasn’t able to consistently hit outside shots to pull Apex out on the perimieter.
Clark finished with a team-high 19 points but no other Comet scored more than half a dozen points.
"(Clark) is still a load, even on the perimeter," Neal said. "Ian Boyd did a tremendous job but he had a lot of help."
Clayton went to its traps midway of the third quarter but great passing and timely buckets by players like Malik Williams (who hit three 3-pointers in the second half and finished with 11 points) and John Kitoko (seven points in the second half) kept the Apex advantage at 10 points or better.
"Apex has a lot of seniors and really good guards," said Clayton coach Denny Medlin. "We weren’t reading things very well on defense."
Offensively, the Comets scored just 30 points after the first quarter.
"I’m not as upset with our defensive effort as I am with the fact that we didn’t run our offense very well after the first quarter," Medlin said. "We didn’t run our offense very well and Apex is very good defensively. And against a team like that you have to work the ball.
"The first six games we’ve been able to score on shear athletic ability when we needed to. We needed to execute as a team tonight and we didn’t get the job done in that area."
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