Dragons bring Hilltoppers to the wire

Better performance by Clinton in rematch

While the Clinton Dragons came up short last Saturday as they lost to No. 5-ranked Science Hill 50-45 in basketball action at Don W. Lockard Gym, Coach Chris Lockard’s team came back from a poor start to put pressure on the Hilltoppers until the end – just coming up short.

“We missed some shots that would have helped us gain the lead if they had gone in,” Lockard said. “We started rough in the first period, but we outscored them during the remaining three periods because we started making our shots and made the adjustments along the way on defense that cut down their chances to score from the outside. Unfortunately at the end, it wasn’t enough, but we still played them tough.”

Science Hill came into the contest 20-1 and riding a five-game winning streak. The Hilltoppers’ only loss of the season came Dec. 28 during a tournament in Hawaii against the Aloha State’s top-ranked team.

The Hilltoppers appeared to be on their way to another one-sided victory against the Dragons as they opened a 16-5 lead after the first eight minutes. Clinton began to make defensive adjustments to start the second period while enjoy more accuracy from the floor in getting the ball through the hoop as the Dragons trailed 28-20 at halftime. The two teams played fairly even during the third period as the Dragons outscored their guests 12-10 to trail 38-32 heading into the final eight minutes.

Clinton’s defensive pressure and strong shooting early in the final period got the deficit down to one with 1:29 remaining when Jackson Garner made a trey. The Dragons forced a turnover 19 seconds later, but were unable to take advantage as they missed several shots. With Clinton forced to foul in the closing moments, Science Hill made key free throws and was able to gain needed breathing room.

The Dragons lost Dec. 17 by 11 to the Hilltoppers in Johnson City. Lockard is a great believer in going up against strong teams out of district play in preparation for the district tournament in February. Science Hill is one of those teams the Dragons have on their schedule to improve as a squad. Lockard said the Saturday’s game provides the Dragons with some valuable lessons moving forward.

“As strong as our shooting and defense were once we got going, their ability to stop us at the end shows how good they are and helps us want to work harder to improve our shooting against strong defenses,” Lockard said.

Garner topped the Dragons with 18 points, including four treys. Brian Winchester added 11. Chase Lockard made a trey.