‘Irish Eyes’ weren’t smiling on Clinton

Season ends for Dragons in region play

  • Clinton’s Evan Winchester goes up and around for a shot against Catholic High School during region play. - Conner McCarty

  • Clinton’s Chase Lockard found himself in the “tall timbers” Sunday night against Cathlolic High School. - Conner McCarty

“Expletive Deleted.”

Clinton High School Head Basketball Coach Chris Lockard simply summed up his feelings before leaving the floor after falling to Cathlolic High School in a flood-induced, surreal Region 2-AAA contest Sunday night.

The Clinton High School Dragons had their 2018-2019 season come to an end over the weekend, and finish with an overall record of 19-15.

The Dragons advanced to a showdown with the Oak Ridge Wildcats in the District 3-AAA Tournament Semifinal, but were defeated 88-54.

The loss moved Clinton to the consolation game against Knoxville Central, where the Dragons bounced back and defeated the Bobcats 67-59. The consolation game victory gave Clinton a third-place finish in District 3-AAA.

Thus, in the Region 2-AAA Quarterfinals, the Dragons had to travel to Knoxville Catholic for a bout with the Fighting Irish, the District 4-AAA Tournament Finalists.

Yet, the Fighting Irish would be too much for the Dragons. Catholic would eliminate Clinton from TSSAA Division 1-AAA postseason play, with a 84-56 win over the Dragons.

Last Monday, the Dragons earned a semifinal bout with the top-seeded Wildcats of Oak Ridge (25-5).

However, the Wildcats were able to pull away from Clinton after the midway point of the second quarter. Evan Winchester led the way for the Dragons from the opening tip, and scored nine of Clinton’s 15 first quarter points.

Trailing 20-15 heading into the second quarter, the Dragons scored four straight points to cut their deficit to only one.

Yet, the Wildcats countered with a 6-0 run, and Oak Ridge carried a 26-19 lead into the four-minute mark of the second quarter.

Within the last four minutes of the first half, Oak Ridge turned a 6-0 run into a 22-2 run by halftime. Clinton only scored six points in the second quarter and the Wildcats led 42-21 at the break.

Clinton shot only 25-percent from the floor in the first half, while Oak Ridge shot 58-percent.

By the break, Oak Ridge already had two players in double figures — Javonte Thomas led the Wildcats with 15 points in the first half, and Marcus Smith followed with 13 points. For Clinton, Winchester had 13 of the Dragons’ 21 points.

The Wildcats continued to extend their lead in the third quarter, and the game would be well out of reach by the start of the fourth quarter. Oak Ridge’s Jeremy Miller collected a team-high 22 points.

Thomas followed with 19 points and Smith tailed 15 points. However, it was Clinton’s Winchester who led all scorers with a game-high 25 points. Winchester was the only Dragon to reach double-digits.

Oak Ridge’s semifinal win over Clinton marked their third victory over the Dragons this season. The Dragons have now dropped 21-straight games to their cross-county rival dating back to 2010, and Clinton has not made a District 3-AAA Final appearance since that same year. Opposingly, the Wildcats have now appeared in the title game seven straight years.

Nevertheless, the Dragons responded against a solid Knoxville Central squad in the consolation game. The Bobcats (16-13) would take an early advantage behind Tevon Summers’ eight first quarter points, 19-16.

However, it was Clinton who would control the second quarter of play. The Dragons held Central to just five points. Also, Winchester put up nine of Clinton’s 14 second quarter points, and led the Dragons into halftime with a 30-24 lead.

Yet, the Bobcats would claw their way back to tie the game on three separate occasions within the third quarter.

Offensively for Clinton, Jackson Garner would start to heat up. Garner, who had hit two treys in the first half, bottomed two more from downtown, and scored eight of Clinton’s 18 points in the quarter.

One of Garner’s two third quarter triples would give Clinton a two-possession lead right before the end of the quarter, and the Dragons would hold a slim 48-44 advantage.

In the fourth quarter, Clinton used the clock against Central by spreading the floor and extending possessions for as long as possible. Trailing by multiple possessions, the Bobcats were forced to foul.

The Dragons would go to the stripe on nine different occasions in the fourth quarter, and converted on 11-of-17 attempts.

The made free throws late in the fourth quarter gave Clinton a 12-point lead — the largest of the game — and the Dragons would earn the consolation game win.

Garner and Winchester would each lead Clinton with 21 points each. Garner would reach that total with the help of his five made threes. Chase Lockard would finish in double-digits as well, with 11 points. For Central, Summers would lead the Bobcats in scoring with 17 points.

Clinton finished the game 16-of-24 from the free throw line, while Central was three-of-eight.

Plus, the Dragons hit five more shots from downtown, compared to the Bobcats who finished the night four-of-21 from beyond the arc.

This past Sunday, the Dragons traveled to Knoxville Catholic High School for the Region 2-AAA Tournament Quarterfinals, and were looking for revenge.

The Irish defeated Clinton 74-56 in the first game of the season. However, Clinton found revenge easier said than done.

The District 4-AAA Finalists came ready to play and controlled the game from the opening tip. The Fighting Irish (25-6) are known for their two six-foot 11-inch post players, but against the Dragons, neither of them were as big as Brian Edwards.

The six-foot two-inch freshman guard was outstanding for Catholic all night. The Fighting Irish jumped out to a 16-6 lead over Clinton, and Edwards scored 11 points in the first quarter. The Dragons’ offense doubled their first quarter total in the second quarter, but were still struggling on both ends of the floor. Catholic’s offense continued to score with ease, and so did Edwards, who put up ten second quarter points. Edwards’ 21 first half points led Catholic to a 40-18 lead over Clinton at halftime.

The third quarter was Clinton’s most productive quarter offensively, as the Dragons put up 21 points.

Yet, still, Clinton could not find a way to stop the Irish. Catholic put 29 third quarter points on the Dragons, and again, were led by their freshman guard. Edwards had nine points in the quarter and Catholic held a commanding 69-40 lead heading into the final quarter of play.

The Irish would cruise through the fourth quarter to a victory and eliminate the Dragons from postseason play.

Catholic’s Bryan Edwards’ night was one for the books, as he would wind up finishing with a triple-double — 34 points, 13 boards, and 11 assists.

The Dragons were outmatched, but Evan Winchester still balled to the best of his ability, and finished the night with a team-high 19 points to lead the Dragons. Trace Wandell followed with 11 points, alongside Luke Harrison. In his last game as a Clinton Dragon, Harrison would also finish the night with 11 points.