CLAYTON — In preparation for Friday’s game with powerhouse Southeast Raleigh, Clayton girls basketball coach Marlon Lee showed his Comets a tape of Jan. 22, 2010. In that game, Clayton trailed the Bulldogs by 16 points entering the fourth quarter and came back to win.
Friday’s 15-point deficit didn’t have such a Hollywood ending for the Comets, however.
A dismal first quarter by Clayton propelled Southeast Raleigh to a 62-41 win in Greater Neuse River 4A Conference action at Clayton. The Comets were blanked 15-0 in the opening frame before outscoring the Bulldogs 39-37 all the way to the 3:00 mark of the fourth quarter.
“The same mistakes that we made early on against some other teams and got away with it,” said Lee, “you’re not going to get away with it against a good team like that.
“We didn’t quit. But we didn’t execute offensively and defensively. And when you’ve got a team full of athletes that are getting up and down the floor and wearing you out, that’s what happens.”
What Didn’t Work: The first quarter. Nothing went right for the Comets in the early going. The Bulldogs’ Alexus Hicks nailed a pair of early 3-pointers and Southeast was off and running. Stingy ball pressure in the halfcourt led to turnovers and transition points and Clayton missed on a pair of easy buckets.
“When we made those careless turnovers early on it just dug that hole,” Lee said.
What Worked: The final three quarters. Clayton finally got on the scoreboard by pocketing the first bucket of the second quarter to open up a modest 10-5 run. It was just enough to awake some confidence as the Comets outscored Southeast Raleigh over the next 21 minutes of play. Clayton was never able to fully overcome the early deficit however and never pulled closer than 13 points after halftime.
“We can play with them and that was going to be the mindset if we would’ve had the game tight going into the fourth quarter,” Lee said. “But once you get down and behind it’s a long fight from there. We’re not quitters. Over Christmas break we played Northern Durham and we were down 15 going into the fourth quarter and we came back and won. So we’ve been in situations like this before.”
Putting Up Numbers: Clayton’s Taisha Murphy led all scorers with 17 points with 14 of those coming in the second half.
History Shows: Southeast Raleigh continues to dominate the Greater Neuse River Conference. The Bulldogs (14-2, 7-0) have won 25 consecutive conference games dating back to a loss to Clayton in 2012. The Bulldogs are 34-1 in the conference in the last three seasons.
Clayton (11-5, 4-3) will get another shot at the Bulldogs on Feb. 14.