Both teams applied relentless pressure, and the reward was a tie for the region lead with two games to go. Clinton (13-6, 6-2) has home games left against Broome and Woodruff. Newberry (13-6, 6-2) faces Mid-Carolina and Chapman. If they remain tied, the two will have to settle the title in an extra game, most likely at Mid-Carolina in Prosperity.
“By no means was it a pretty game,” Eddie Romines, head coach of the Red Devils, said. “Both teams played their tails off. I tried to rotate our players in order to keep our best five, six or seven guys fresh for the fourth quarter.”
Each team won on the road. The Bulldogs edged Clinton, 71-68, on Jan. 12.
This game turned on two rapid-fire Red Devil baskets, a three from the left corner by Zay Bennett with 52 seconds left, and J.D. Payne’s steal and lay-in six seconds later. Payne led Clinton with 14 points, while Jahleed Cook added 12 and Zay Hurley nine.
A smaller Clinton team hit the boards hard, outrebounding Newberry, 45-36. The flip side was that the Bulldogs forced 32 turnovers, committing 20. Newberry led, 48-53, with 4:49 left in the final quarter.
Newberry’s leading scorers were Tariq Goodman with 11 points, Nick Paul with 10 and Terrell Rogers with nine.
Shooting was a problem for both teams. Newberry shot just 31 percent from the field, Clinton 34.5, but the Red Devils’ aggressive defense indirectly resulted in the Bulldogs connecting on six more free throws.
“Both teams are similar,” Newberry head coach Chad Cary said. “We wanted it to be ugly and got beat at our own game tonight. Clinton set the tone in the first quarter, outrebounded us convincingly, and we lost in the first half, not the second half.”
CLINTON (53): Payne 14, Boyd 4, Cook 12, Priestley 4, Bennett 5, Bluford 2, Hurley 9, Richardson 3. Three-pointers: Payne, Cook, Bennett. Field goals: 20-58 (.345). Free throws: 10-19 (.526). Rebounds: 45. Turnovers: 32.
NEWBERRY (51): Paul 2, Gilliam 7, Ruff 3, Rogers 9, Goodman 11, Chalmers 5, Paul 10, Cromer 5. Three-pointers: Cromer. Field goals: 17-55 (.309). Free throws: 16-23 (.696). Rebounds: 36. Turnovers 20.
The Newberry girls advanced to the state finals a year ago, and their 75-41 victory was no surprise.
Clinton (10-13, 4-4) is considerably improved this season, but a wide gulf between the two programs remains. The Lady Red Devils may have played a little better than earlier in the season because they scored more than half as many points as the Lady Bulldogs. The first meeting went 58-26 Newberry’s way.
The highlight for Clinton was Kailey Cheeks, who hit four three-pointers and scored 14 points. Terriauna Bennett added 10.
Newberry (16-3, 8-0) took 42 more shots than Clinton, mostly a result of constant full-court pressure that forced 40 Lady Red Devil turnovers. Newberry had 10.
Rayanna Davis scored 23 points for Newberry, followed by Zacharice Epps with 18 and Kelsey Felks with 13.
CLINTON (41): Campbell 6, Cheeks 14, Abercrombie 2, Watts 2, Reed 2, Bennett 10, Simpkins 1. Three-pointers: Cheeks 4, Campbell 2. Field goals: 15-35 (.429). Free throws: 5-11 (.455). Rebounds: 30. Turnovers: 40.
NEWBERRY (75): D. Davis 8, Miller 7, Ruff 2, Epps 18, Haywood 2, R. Davis 23, Felks 13, Eigner 3. Three-pointers: D. Davis 2, Miller, Epps 2, R. Davis 2. Field goals: 29-77 (.377). Free throws: 8-17 (.471). Rebounds: 31. Turnovers: 10.