DUBLIN — The Dark Horses of Clinton put its foot on the gas for three quarters Wednesday in the opening round of the Woodmen Life Christmas Tournament and only a running clock and fourth-quarter substitutions kept them from hitting the century mark. Instead, Clinton hammered an overmatched East Bladen squad, 75-37.
The loss kept the Eagles winless at 0-8 to start the season.
The Dark Horses opened the game with a 7-0 run and a pressure defense that forced East Bladen into numerous turnovers. Javant McDowell stopped the bleeding with a basket, but Clinton answered with a bucket and three-pointer to open a 12-2 lead.
After two free throws by Sincere Smith, the Dark Horses scored five straight to extend the lead to 17-4 before McDowell canned another basket for the Eagles. But Clinton manufactured an 8-0 burst and, after a basket by McDowell, finished the first quarter with a 4-0 run to take a 29-8 lead into the second stanza.
The Clinton advantage went to 31-8 before Bryan Bowen and McDowell each hit a bucket for the Eagles. A Dark Horses bucket was answered with a basket by Bowen before Clinton finished the half on a 10-3 burst — interrupted by a free throw from McDowell and basket by Smith — and took a 43-17 lead into halftime.
The Dark Horses opened the second half with a small 4-0 burst to increase the lead to 47-17, but East Bladen responded with a 4-0 run of its own on a free throw from McDowell, free throw by Smith and basket by McDowell. Clinton stopped the run with a pair of baskets before Smith canned another bucket, but the Dark Horses finished the third quarter with a start-the-running-clock 14-0 explosion to carry a 68-23 lead into the fourth frame.
The Eagles opened the period with a 9-0 run — thanks to eight points from Keshaun Davis and a free throw from Deondre Newkirk — and the Dark Horse subs couldn’t find the basket until the 3:31 mark. Newkirk drained a three-pointer, but Clinton answered with its own three-pointer before Davis buried a bucket and the Dark Horses canned the final basket before the buzzer.
“There’s not much to say,” East Bladen coach Kenzil McCall said.
McDowell led the Eagles with 12 points, while David added 10 points — all in the fourth quarter — and Smith contributed seven points.
East Bladen will play in the second round of the tournament on Thursday at 4 p.m. at West Bladen High.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or email@example.com.