Clinton pulled out a win over Central High School 54-47 in a nail-biter Jan. 14.
The Dragons traveled to Central to face the Bobcats in what originally was to be a Clinton home game.
The location was changed from Clinton High School due to a power outage at the school resulting from storms.
The game was close from start to finish, with Clinton’s strong teamwork winning out against Central’s aggressive playstyle in a tense, heated game.
Evan Winchester led the team, maintaining a steady, grounded air in the face of Central’s attempts to rattle the Dragons. He pulled 24 points before the end of the game with five defensive rebounds and three assists.
There were certainly times that could have rattled the team as well, including a tense confrontation following a scuffle over a rebound that the referees had to break up, and a Central student section yelling disgusting remarks at the players and referees alike.
Both teams had strong stats, with both teams hitting 15 two-point baskets. Clinton came away an effective field goal percentage of 45.3 to Central’s 44.3.
Clinton made twice as many three-point shots as Central, coming away with six to Central’s three, but gave away more free-throws that Central didn’t capitalize on.
Clinton came away with 14 fouls, giving Central 14 free throws, of which they only made eight. Still, Central beat the Dragons in both offensive and defensive rebounds, as well as in transition points.
Coming in a close second behind Winchester, Jackson Garner came away with 12 points, including three deflections.
Overall, the stats just reflect how close the game really was, with both teams excelling in some areas while they lagged in others.
Ultimately, it was a close enough game and the teams were so evenly matched that every player’s actions mattered and even the smallest thing done differently could have drastically changed the outcome.
Head Coach Chris Lockard said he felt the game’s intensity.
“They’ve got a couple of premier guards, and I knew it would be a tough game for us, especially on the rebounding factor,” he said. “Evan Winchester played probably the best game of his career so far, and he really kept the team together.
“We didn’t have any turnovers in the fourth quarter when the game was really on the line, and we executed our half-court offense the best we ever had.”
Lockard also praised Jackson Garner and Trace Wandell for their guarding performances.
“They were tasked with guarding their two best places and they did that, keeping both of them to only 10 points,” he said. “DeMarcus and Trevor controlled the paint all night long.”
Lockard has stated in the past that he wanted a difficult schedule for the Dragons this year, and he thinks that decision is beginning to pay off.
“I like the direction we’re heading right now,” he said. “I think our tough schedule has proven to be a positive at Central. We’re still a work in progress, we’re still working, and that’s a good thing. It’s hard to maintain that high level of play every night, especially with so many non-district games.
“This was a huge confidence boost for us, though, to go out there and play the way we did.”