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SMITHFIELD — Smithfield-Selma High used the emotional high of Tuesday’s senior night to defeat Clayton High, 60-57, to force a three-way tie in the 3-A Greater Neuse River Conference varsity boys basketball race heading into the final game.
“It was a very emotional night, because it’s our senior night, and it’s our last time playing on this floor,” senior point guard Anthony Council said. “All six of our seniors had to come out and play with our heart.”
The Spartans honored six seniors before the game: Council, Deron George, Keon Lassister, De’Maje Hicks, Madrik Sanders and Raekwon Barnes. The six seniors played the majority of the game and scored 58 of the Spartans’ 60 points, including a 11-0 run to end the first half spurred on by 3-pointers from Sanders, Council and Barnes. Barnes even got an off-balance leaner to beat the horn and give the Spartans a 31-20 lead.
“It was big, it was important, not only was it Clayton, it’s senior night, we needed it to survive for playoffs,” Sanders said.
SSS made shots that earlier in the season they were afraid to shoot. Head coach Matt Cuddington said last Friday’s game against South Johnston, which they lost 57-54, without Council gave the other guys added confidence that they didn’t have before.
Clayton stormed back behind Cameron Walden’s 18 second-half points. Walden ended with a game-high 22 points. The Comets had the ball, twice, down 56-55 with a minute left in the fourth quarter and turned it over both times, which resulted in them having to foul to extend the game. They sent Council to the line twice and he knocked down four free throws to seal the first win over Clayton since November of 2016. Council finished with a team-high 21 points.
“Every year we play against Clayton we know that’s a hard week,” Council said. “Everybody just came together and just played hard.”
The win created a three-way tie between Smithfield-Selma (9-13, 4-5), Clayton (10-11, 4-5) and Cleveland (11-11, 4-5) for third place in the conference which would likely decides who gets into the playoffs and who hosts the first round of the conference tournament.
Ross 10, Bell, Bryant 12, Crumpler 4, Long 9, Walden 22
Council 21, Barnes 9, Sanders 11, George 5, Lassiter 6, Hicks 6, Faulk 2.
Score by quarters:
Clayton 10 10 19 18 — 57
Smithfield-Selma 10 21 16 13 — 60