Girls Basketball: Wilmington Ashley 51, Clayton 38

Clayton struggles to score, bows out to Wilmington Ashley

cbest@newsobserver.comFebruary 25, 2014 

— Clayton did the kind of things it needs to do for the first quarter of Monday’s 4A girls basketball playoff game against Wilmington Ashley: score consistently.

Unfortunately for the Comets, that trend didn’t continue and the Eagles grabbed a 51-38 home victory, ending Clayton’s season.

The Comets led 16-14 after the opening quarter as Taisha Murphy and Jenna Harris knocked down early 3-pointers and Ashley struggled to handle Clayton’s trapping defense at times.

The Eagles stayed in the game behind the offensive rebounding of sophomore forward Chyna Cotton who scored 16 of her 18 points in the first half. Eight of those first-half points came after offensive rebounds.

“(Cotton) pounded the glass in the first half and we did a better job against her in the second half,” said Clayton coach Marlon Lee. “We just didn’t take advantage of all of our chances to score and in the playoffs you have to take advantage if every opportunity you have, it’s going to be hard to win.”

Clayton’s issue there came over the final three quarters where it would score just 22 points in the final 24 minutes of play.

Ashley led 27-24 at the half but pulled away in the third quarter, thanks to an improved defensive effort.

“Defensively, we gave up way too much in the first quarter,” said Ashley coach Adrienne Gale. “We stressed at halftime that we needed to contest those outside shots like we were contesting the inside. I thought we got out to their shooters a little bit faster in the second half.”

Meanwhile, the Comets hit just 4-of-18 field goal attempts in the second half. Clayton was able to get some open looks at 3-pointers but those shots continually rattled off of the rim.

Clayton also totaled 22 turnovers on the night.

“We’ve had the same problem all year,” Lee said. “When we turn the ball over, we’re not going to score.”

Murphy led Clayton with 12 points, while Amber Caudle added nine and Harris finished with 8.

The Comets finished the season with a 16-9 record and will lose five seniors to graduation, led by four-year varsity players Ashley Murphy and Harris. Rachel Maness, Amber Caudle and Taylor Williams are Clayton’s other seniors.

“We had a solid season,” Lee said. “There are senior classes that don’t win 16 games in their careers. They helped set the tone for our program and continued to build on a growing tradition of winning basketball.”

Best: 919-524-8895; Twitter: @dclaybest

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