In the first round of the Class 3A playoffs on Tuesday night, Payne served quick notice that happy days were here again, scoring the game's first seven points. The Red Devils never trailed and vanquished Seneca, 70-47. Payne scored 19 points, 12 of them in the first half.
"The ankle was bothering him against Newberry (a tie-breaker loss that cost Clinton a repeat as region champion), and he struggled for two games because of it," head coach Eddie Romines said. "When he is scoring, it makes us better."
Clinton (16-7) started both halves red-hot, and Jahleed Cook took over from Payne as the catalyst, scoring nine of his 17 points in the third quarter.
"The third quarter has been a problem for us," Romines said. "We challenged them at halftime to be aggressive on offense and aggressive on defense. Winning the third quarter was the biggest difference in the game."
Clinton was ahead 7-0 after the game's first 1:13 and hiked a nine-point edge at halftime (32-23) to 15 (38-23) in the first 45 seconds of the third quarter.
The lead reached 28 points (66-38) with 2:51 remaining in the game. Three players scored in double figures -- Vilo Boyd had 10 -- and nine players scored.
Trevon Jenkins led Seneca (10-16) in the elimination game with 14 points. Clinton outshot the Bobcats, finishing with 10 more field goals and a considerably higher percentage, outrebounded them, 42-36, and forced 24 turnovers while committing only 15.
"That's our most complete game of the year, I think," Romines said, "and it's good to have that in the playoffs.
The Red Devils will travel to Camden on Friday in the second round, while Region 3-3A top seed Newberry hosts Chester.
SENECA (47): Evett 6, Jenkins 14, Cousins 5, Simpson 3, Goss 2, Tabron 4, Chapman 8, Rogers 3, Leard 2. Three-pointers: Jenkins, Simpson, Rogers. FIeld goals: 18-55 (.327). Free throws: 8-15 (.533). Rebounds: 36. Turnovers: 24.
CLINTON (70): Payne 19, Boyd 10, Cook 17, Priestley 3, Hood 2, Bennett 6, James 7, Hurley 4, Tiller 2. Three-pointers: Payne 2, Boyd, Priestley. Field goals: 28-60 (.467). Free throws: 10-18 (.556). Rebounds: 42. Turnovers: 15.