By Bryan Davis
Hebron boys basketball coach Greg Watkins said before the season started that his team’s offense was going to revolve around Carlton Clay and Chad Smith. On Tuesday night, the boys opened at home against Starkville Christian Academy, and Clay and Smith combined for 49 points on the night, leading the Eagles to a season opener 64-51 victory over the Volunteers.
“They came out kind of flat,” said head coach Greg Watkins of the Eagles. “I think we rattled off something like seven unanswered points after they went up 6-0.”
Clay had the biggest night on the floor, but it was Smith who scored first for the Eagles. After falling behind 6-0 early, Hebron needed a jolt from the offense, and Smith delivered that with a two-point shot that cut the deficit to four.
“Our offense revolves around Carlton (Clay),” Watkins said. “Everybody knows that, and Carlton does a real good job of taking advantage of what the defense gives him. If he’s got the shot, he’ll go on and score. If he doesn’t, he’ll take the double team and dish it off.”
Taylor Coggins added his own fire with a three point shot, making it a one-point game. After that, Smith hit back-to-back free throws that would once again bring the Eagles to within one of Starkville.
Coggins nailed a two-point shot that finally got his team over the hump and in the lead.
It did not take long for the Volunteers to jump back on top, but when they were threatening again, Clay came through with a huge shot block with 2:07 to go in the first. That is when Clay went to work on offense.
After sinking a pair of free throws, Clay then got his third and fourth points on a two-point shot, giving his team a 13-12 lead going into the second quarter.
Clay was on fire, nailing five points early in the second, leading to a 20-17 lead. Will Corbin Rogers also got five in that time span.
Clay, Rogers and Smith would lead the offense for the remainder of the period, taking a 31-29 lead into the half, despite a three-point buzzer shot by Starkville to end the second.
“In the first half, we were getting in too big of a rush,” Watkins said. “We’re not quite in the game shape we need to be in yet. We stressed at half time to slow down a little bit and take what they give us.”
Smith helped to pad the Eagles’ slim lead in the third quarter’s opening seconds, sinking free throws after a foul to make it 33-29. The Volunteers would draw to within two with a two-point shot of their own.
Smith would eventually finish the third with eight points, and Clay would finish with six points of his own.
When the fourth quarter began, the Eagles had a 45-35 lead on Starkville, their biggest lead of the night. They still needed a good final eight minutes to hang on to it.
Clay would provide most of the offense in that quarter, nailing down nine points to start the frame.
Rogers had two points, and Smith had four, but Clay would finish the fourth with 13 points.
Clay would finish the game with a total of 32 points. Smith was second on the team with 17 points scored, and Rogers had 10 points. Coggins scored five points on the night for Hebron.
The Eagles will be back in action tonight, hosting Carroll. All of the action is scheduled to start at 4 p.m.