Winchester leads, Dragons follow

Junior guard breaks his coach’s single game assist record

  • Evan Winchester had back-to-back double-doubles (points and rebounds) last week. Tuesday, against Halls, he broke his coach’s and Clinton High School’s single-game assist record with 21 dishes — a record that had stood for 30 years. - Conner McCarty

  • Chase Lockard was a man on fire against Halls, hitting five-of-seven attempts from beyond the arc to help Clin- ton build an early 22-6 lead against Halls. - Conner McCarty

After dropping five straight games and falling into the bottom half of the District-3AAA standings, the Clinton High School Dragons needed wins last week.

The Dragons (11-11, 5-5) needed to defeat the two teams below them in the standings — Knoxville Halls (2-19, 1-9) and Campbell County (1-21, 0-9). Led by junior point guard Evan Winchester, Clinton earned two much needed District-3AAA wins.

Last Tuesday, in the Dragons 100-71 thrashing of the Red Devils, Winchester would break Head Coach Chris Lockard’s and Clinton High School’s single-game assist record, which has stood for 30 years.

Winchester would finish the night with an absurd stat line — in 30 minutes of play, the junior would finish with 17 points, a record-breaking 21 assists, six boards, two steals, and one block.

On Friday, in the 77-68 win over Campbell County, Winchester would rack up another double-double performance. Winchester put up 18 points on the Cougars, snagged 11 rebounds, and four steals.

Winchester and the Dragons knew coming into last week’s games that their opponents have been struggling, viewed the contests as should-win games. “We knew we couldn’t lose those games,” said Winchester. After taking care of business last week, Clinton gained some needed momentum as they prepare for a challenging week, this week.

Last Tuesday, the Dragons had no problem with Halls at the Donny Dome. Chase Lockard, Clinton’s three-point specialist, came out of the gates on fire. In the first quarter, Lockard hit five-of-seven attempts from downtown and Clinton opened up a 22-6 lead.

The Dragons would never trail in the game. Clinton put up 28 points in three out of four quarters, through Winchester’s ability to drive and dish assists to his open teammates, combined with Clinton’s love to push in transition.

The Devils’ defense struggled to find stops all night.

Chase Lockard went seven-of-16 on attempts from beyond the arch, and finished the night leading all scorers with 26 points.

Luke Harrison hit eight-of-12 from the floor, and matched Winchester with 17 points.

Trace Wandell had a good scoring the basketball as well and finished with 12 points.

The win was much needed and would turn out to be a special night for Evan Winchester, as his performance earned him a spot in the Clinton Basketball record book.

“I told coach Thackerson before the game that I wasn’t feeling that good, so was going to pass a lot. He tallied every assist I got, so I knew at halftime I had nine. He told me I hit 15 with like five minutes left in the fourth quarter. I was just trying to get to 21,” said Winchester.

“The next day is when it really hit me—when I got on Hudl, checked the stats, and saw I had 21 assists. I just kept looking at it. I can’t tell you how many times I looked at it. It’s just weird to see. It’s crazy,” said Winchester about his assist record.

On Friday, Clinton traveled to face the Cougars of Campbell County. The Dragons struggled to score in the first quarter, shot 18-percent from the floor, and trailed 16-8 heading into the second quarter of play. Clinton began to see their shots fall in the second quarter, as six different Dragons contributed points. However, Campbell County would ride a 33-28 lead into the break—Clinton never led in the first half.

Yet, the Dragons would erase the Cougars’ lead with a 6-0 run to start the half — which swung the momentum the Dragon’s way and changed the game. By the four-minute mark of the third quarter, Clinton had gained a six-point lead, and extended it to as large as 11 before a Campbell County run brought the Cougars within five, as the third quarter ended — 50-45.

The Dragons would shoot 60-percent from the floor in the final period, hitting nine-of-15 attempts from the floor, and cruised to the win. Clinton owned the paint on both ends of the floor — outscoring the Cougars 42-24 in the lane.

Both Harrison and Winchester would lead all scorers with 18 points each. Freshman sharpshooter Jackson Garner went four-of-eight from three-point-land and put up 14 points.

The Dragons look ahead and prepare for a tough week, as they travel to rematch a solid Lakeway Christian team on Tuesday, before returning home to host the District-3AAA leaders—Oak Ridge. Because the Dragons sit two games out of the fourth spot, Clinton need to win two out of their next three district games to feel safer.

However, that will not be easy, as Clinton faces a challenging end to district play — Oak Ridge, at Powell, and Anderson County.

As the Dragons battle through the heart of January seeking a good post-season seed, look for Evan Winchester’s level of play to have direct correlation to the results of Clinton’s upcoming games.

Evan is a good ball-handler, efficient passer, aggressive driver, proven shooter, and a gritty defender all-in-one. He’s a natural play-maker, has a high basketball IQ and possesses the ability to takeover a game. Most importantly, Evan Winchester is a leader.

Thus, expect Clinton’s new Single-Game Assist record holder to be an important factor in the Dragons’ game plan as Orange and Black look to capture two more wins this week.