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By DANNY P. SMITH
Carlton Clay came to play for the Hebron Christian School Eagles Monday night against the Starkville Christian School Eagles.
Clay followed a nine-point first quarter with a 13-point third and finished with a game-high 26 points as the Eagles from Clay County dominated the Cougars 59-32 at the Starkville Christian gymnasium.
"Carlton is pretty tough," Hebron coach Greg Watkins said. "We can move him inside or out. He can hit the three and he's a hard matchup inside."
The Eagles (5-1) scored the first two baskets of the game, one each by Clay and Kevin Simmons, to take a 4-0 lead, but the Cougars came back to tie the game on buckets by Paul Michael Calhoun and Aaron Bowman.
Following a Simmons free throw that put Hebron back on top, Clay scored a basket and Taylor Coggins hit a three-point field goal to stretch the advantage to 10-4.
Bowman scored to bring Starkville Christian back to within 10-6, but that was as close as the Cougars could get.
After Hebron led 18-10 after the first quarter and 25-15 at halftime, the Eagles outscored their host 20-6 in the third quarter.
"We had a little bit of rust from Thanksgiving, but we need to work on things like moving the ball around a little faster, getting it in and out, cutting a little bit more instead of just standing there watching," Starkville Christian School coach Jonathan Little said. "We didn't get a lot of loose balls and rebounds. We got outrebounded pretty heavily and I didn't see a lot of people getting on the floor. Those things added up and took their toll toward the end of the game."
The Cougars were missing two of their regular players in Micah Little and Ethan Willers. Coach Little expects Willer to return for today's game at the Jackson Victors, but doesn't know when Micah Little will be back in the lineup.
As his Hebron squad began to take control of the game, Watkins used the situation to play several different combinations and wear down SCS.
"I told them we need to run the court a little bit," Watkins said. "I was going to rotate them because he had some guys missing and his bench wasn't like usual."
Simmons was the other double-figure scorer for the Eagles with 12 points, while Will Corben Rogers added nine points.
Bowman and Calhoun had 10 points each for the Cougars (3-6). Caleb Jordan was next with eight points.
Hebron Christian 65
Starkville Christian 20
The Lady Eagles took a 15-6 lead after the first quarter, never looked back and remained undefeated.
Hebron Christian (9-0) stretched the margin to 29-10 by halftime and 49-15 after three quarters.
Tori Nichols led four Lady Eagles in double-digit scoring with 27 points. Beverly Blake added 15 points, Hillary Arnold chipped in 11 points and Magen Tapley contributed 10 points.
Nichols proved to be a tough matchup inside for Starkville Christian.
"She's pretty good and pretty tough inside," Watkins said. "She can shoot it anywhere in the paint and when you are playing her man and move her away from the basket, it gives her a lot of freedom where she can drive or pull up and take that eight-foot shot."
It took Hebron, which plays at Calhoun Academy tonight, just a bit to get back in the swing of
things following the Thanksgiving break.
"We didn't hit the outside shot like we usually do," Watkins said. "When we hit the outside shot, it usually opens it up for (Nichols) too."
Sydney Whitehead had six points to lead the Lady Cougars (0-10).