The Clinton Dragons won the Rock Holiday Classic basketball tournament last week at Windmere Prep in Lake Butler, Fla.
The Dragons, who won three games, were the only team in the tournament to go unbeaten. The tournament did not go off without a hitch as several teams dropped out due to COVID issues, meaning the schedule was juggled and Clinton had to overcome those changes on top of the long bus ride south.
“I was very pleased,” said Chris Lockard, head coach of the Dragons.
“It was one of those tournaments that was high. Obviously, anytime you go play, you want to win, but the teams we were playing down there were high caliber. For us to win one game, I would have been pleased.”
In the tourney opener on Tuesday, Clinton downed 7A Parkview High School of Lilburn, Ga., by 64-62.
“They were an outstanding team with a lot of depth, a lot of speed and had some good size,” Lockard said. “They had two really good guards.”
Parkview took a two-point lead in the first quarter. But using a balanced scoring attack from Jackson Garner, Jeremiah Blauvelt, Lane Harrison, Rishon Bright, and Trace Thackerson, the Dragons responded with a huge second quarter to take a 37-32 lead at the half.
The Panthers trimmed the Clinton advantage to three points in the third quarter at 51-48. The Dragons withstood a late surge by Parkview in the closing minutes to hang on for the win.
“We played fairly well offensively,” Lockard said. “We didn’t shoot it great, but defensively, we were right on. Our man defense was good and I went to zone for a little while. That seemed to bother them [Parkview] a little bit and it enabled us to get in transition and run some. Jeremiah [Blauvelt] and Lane [Harrison] just played outstanding; they rebounded and scored well.”
Blauvelt led Clinton with 17 points, one of a quartet of Dragons in double-figure scoring. The other three were Garner (14), Harrison (14), and Bright (12).
CHS 14 23 14 13 64
PHS 16 16 16 14 62
CHS - Jeremiah Blauvelt (17), Jackson Garner (14), Lane Harrison (14), Rishon Bright (12), Trace Thackerson (5), Brent Reynolds (2)
PHS - Jordan Floyd (17), Mike Matthews (12), Nekhi Fisher (12), Adonai Mussie (9), Chasz Holmes (6), Jordan Riley (4), Nathaniel Belete (2)
The Dragons won their second game of the tournament by beating Chattahoochie High 62-53. Chattahoochie is the defending Georgia 6A champion.
“They [Chattahoochie] had really good balance offensively,” Lockard said. “They had some big guards that gave us some problems.”
Clinton took a two-point lead in the first quarter and just as in the previous game, used a big second quarter to take a 32-19 halftime lead. Chattahoochie did not fold. It cut the Dragons’ lead to 45-35 in the third quarter. Chattahoochie attempted a push in the fourth quarter but wasn’t able to make enough of a dent in the Clinton lead to make a difference.
“Jackson Garner got going and we were able to feed off of him,” Lockard said. “We got in some foul trouble so we had to change what we were doing, but Jackson was shooting so well we were able to stretch the lead out.
“Trace Thackerson really controlled our offense and Rishon Bright made some unbelievable plays; he had a backdoor dunk,” the coach said. “They had trouble containing Rishon getting to the paint. When he got to the paint he was able to find Jackson and some of the other guys for some easy baskets.”
Garner led all scorers with 38 points, which included eight 3-pointers. Bright added 14 points.
CHS 14 18 13 17 62
Chatt. 12 7 16 18 53
CHS - Jackson Garner (38), Rishon Bright (14), Jeremiah Blauvelt (7), Lane Harrison (3)
Chatt. - Avi Haritsa (14), Tomiwa Adetosoye (12), Yuta Yamamoto (6), Gil Matondo (6), Cameron James (5), Aidan Temple (5), Corey Gibbs (3), Jaylen Edgerton (2)
On Thursday, the Dragons finished the tournament with a 74-59 win over St. Xavier High School of Cincinnati.
“I felt like St. Xavier would hurt us the most of the three teams we played,” Lockard said. “They’re very well coached and run a lot of backdoor back screen stuff, which is tough to guard. We were outsized at every position. They played probably 12 guys, all juniors and seniors.”
The Dragons took control early as they went up 19-6 in the first quarter. St. Xavier rallied somewhat in the second quarter, but Clinton led 38-29 at the half.
The Bombers trimmed the Dragons’ advantage to 55-47 in the third quarter, but Clinton pulled away in the fourth quarter to claim the win and the tournament championship.
“They pressed us the entire game,” Lockard said. “We made a couple of changes in our press offense and Jeremiah got a lot of easy looks. They made an adjustment, and I did, too. I went with Hunter Rupert. He hit three straight 3’s and that really helped us extend the lead. Rishon and Trace just picked their press defense apart.”
Blauvelt led all scorers with 22 points, while Garner and Harrison each had 14 points, while Bright added 13.
Garner was named MVP of the tournament, while Bright and Thackerson were named to the All-Tournament team.
The Dragons (13-1, 3-0 in district play) visit Fulton Thursday for a non-district game. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. They travel to Riverdale (Murfreesboro) on Monday and visit Carter on Tuesday.
CHS 19 19 17 17 74
St. X 6 23 18 12 59
CHS - Jeremiah Blauvelt (22), Jackson Garner (14), Lane Harrison (14), Rishon Bright (13), Hunter Rupert (9)
St. Xavier - Johnny Vanover (20), David Clark (15), Louie Semona (12), Andrew Weber (4), Luke Klare (3), Joseph Wassler (3)