CLAYTON — Any time Gary Clark is having the kind of performance he had on Tuesday night, it’s going to be very hard for a high school basketball team to slow him down.
Even a good team like East Wake.
The 6-foot-8 forward, who is bound for the University of Cincinnati next season, finished with a career-high 40 points and 12 rebounds, leading Clayton to a 69-62 win over the Warriors in Greater Neuse River 4A action.
The win improved the defending champion Comets to 12-3, 5-0 in conference play, while East Wake fell to 10-4 and 3-2.
Clark was the only player in double figures for the Comets.
Nahjuwan Potts led East Wake with 25 points, followed by Quincy Jackson with 10.
“The key for us was that we took care of the ball against their press,” Clayton coach Denny Medlin said. “East Wake’s a very aggressive team. We try to push the tempo most of the time, but tonight we were actually trying to play half-court basketball on both ends of the court.
“We were really effective in establishing Gary and we stuck with it. We’ve got kids who are skilled with the ball, and we handled their press tonight. But East Wake’s got a good, athletic team and they get after it.”
East coach Darrin Stinson said his players executed some of the game plan to stop the talented big man, but just not enough of it.
“We had too many turnovers,” said Stinson, whose team had a five-game winning streak snapped. “We were going to play man, but we always wanted to have help. But our help side was not there and was not helping too much. We didn’t play good interior post defense.
“Potts got 25 points for us and didn’t really have a good game. But he can always shoot and score.”
Clark said he went into the game carrying a little chip on his shoulder following the disappointment of not making the list of nominees for the McDonald’s All-America game.
“I was in a pretty big zone tonight,” Clark said. “I had a really good day. It really fired me up that the McDonald’s All-America nominees came out today and my name wasn’t up there.
“My feelings were hurt a little bit, but I’ll just keep working. I wanted to come out tonight and play as well as I could offensively and defensively. I’ve been working on face-up jumpers, and also on blocking shots when I’m tired.”
Clayton scored the game’s first eight points and led 12-9 after the first quarter.
East trimmed the margin to 15-14 on Antonio Ellis’ drive to the hoop with 6:23 left in the first half, but the Comets scored the next eight points – six by Clark – to take control again.
Perhaps Clark’s best run was late in the third period, when he scored 11 straight Comet points ending in a 3-point play when he was fouled on a dunk to make it 55-40.
East Wake cut the margin to six points three times in the fourth quarter, the last time on a Jackson follow shot that made it 63-57 with 1:48 left.
“Clark is a good player,” East Wake’s Potts said. “We tried to contain him, but he’s going to get his points. Coach told us to go out and play and have fun and that’s what we did.”
Dawson Medlin, the coach’s son, chipped in eight points for Clayton including a couple of 3-pointers.
“I thought we played pretty good defense in our zone and we handled the press well,” the younger Medlin said. “My team expects me to knock down some big shots and lately I’ve been doing it.
“Gary is one of my best friends and I like watching him play. It feels great playing beside him and being with him on the court.”