The boys’ basketball game between Clinton and Lexington was played at Presbyterian College’s Templeton Center on Saturday night because it was devised as a homecoming for Wildcats head coach Bailey Harris.
That’s what it was. Class 5A Lexington (17-0) defeated 3A Clinton (3-9) 64-39. Harris, an ex-PC player, has coached the Wildcats for 32 years. A tenure of that duration is a sign of success.
The Blue Hose defeated USC Upstate in the afternoon, making the Red Devils and Wildcats literally the nightcap of a doubleheader.
The overmatched Red Devils played hard and kept it close as long as they could. They were within six after a quarter, seven after a half and 12 after three quarters. When the two teams emptied their benches, as it turned out, the Wildcats were stronger there, too.
Mason Carver scored 21 points, and Bradley Foulks and Will Edwards added 12 each. The Wildcats outshot and outrebounded the Red Devils, and made fewer mistakes, to boot. Clinton played hard, though. The Red Devils’ scoring nucleus of Amari Bates and J.D. Payne combined to score 29 points. They scored 41 in a loss in Union the night before. Sam Tiller was next with four points.
“I thought we played very well,” Clinton head coach Eddie Romines said. “We just went through a dry spell at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth quarter. We were down five, then they hit a few threes and we’re not scoring. We got stagnant on offense. They played man and a matchup zone at times, and we’re not moving. It got away from us.”
Apart from Bates and Payne, Clinton put up athletes against Lexington’s “players.” As well-coached as advertised by their record, the Wildcats shot 48 percent from the field, hit three more three-pointers, grabbed four more rebounds and committed half the turnovers.
“J.D. (Payne) and ‘Noodle’ (Bates) are great players, but we’ve got to have other guys step up. We can’t rely just on J.D. and ‘Noodle,’ but they’re our best players. We’ve got to rely on them.”
Mid-Carolina visits Clinton in the Red Devils’ second Region 3-3A game on Tuesday.