Tigers cruise to conference victory over Clinton, 77-66
The Nevada Tigers bounced back nicely from a tough defeat in the Carthage Invitational championship game, throttling the Clinton Cardinals 77-66 in a West Central Conference road-contest Tuesday night.
Nevada (4-1, 2-0 WCC) trailed 9-4 early in the first quarter, but from that point went on a 37-12 run en route to a 20-point halftime lead.
“We came out a little flat, but from that point on played a great first half,” said Nevada head coach, Shaun Gray. “We executed the game-plan pretty well, and broke their pressure easy.”
Gray said he was pleased with Nevada’s defensive effort.
“We made it tough for them to score in the half-court,” said Gray.
Gray said that was due in large part to the defensive effort of senior forward Hunter Mason, who slowed Clinton go-to scorer Trey Miller, an all-conference selection last season.
“Hunter did a great job guarding (Miller), who is one of the best athletes in the conference, and he’s left-handed,” noted Gray. “Early on, we kind of forgot he was left-handed and he got a couple buckets, but from that point on, Hunter did a great job of forcing him to his right-hand and not letting him have anything easy.”
Gray said his squad’s high-energy defense led to offense.
“When we got stops, we were off to the races in transition,” said the fourth-year Tiger head coach.
Gray said that while the 62-58 Carthage invite title game loss to Joplin was a tough pill to swallow, his team is looking at the bigger picture.
“This group has some big goals for themselves,” he Gray. “And as much as that loss to Joplin stings, it doesn’t affect our goals as far as winning the conference. To win the conference, you have to win some big games on the road, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Gray said he was impressed with Nevada’s collective team effort, and with the guard-play in particular.
“Carter Swearingen scored in double-figures and did a better job finishing in transition tonight,” said Gray. “(Freshman) Logan Applegate gave us a spark off the bench, making a lot of really good passes in the full-court against the press.
“Matt Thompson and Braeden Hinton had good games. Dalton Gayman came off the bench and had a couple blocks. I thought it was an overall team win.”
Clinton used six fourth quarter threes to slice into the Tigers sizeable lead, but was unable to get the deficit into single-digits.
“We got into too big of a hurry,” explained Gray, “adding we should have played with a little more control in the second half. But all-in-all, I’m pretty proud of the effort. I don’t think the game was as close as the final score indicates.”
For Nevada, elite forward Clay Gayman finished with a game-high 26 points and 13 rebounds. In addition to Gayman’s big night, Swearingen added 13 points and Thompson 8.
“Clay dominated,” said Gray. “Clay did what Clay does — filled it up for us. And then I thought everybody else played pretty well around him.”
Nevada’s junior varsity team (2-3) also picked up a victory Tuesday in Clinton, dispatching the Cardinals 47-37, as Matt Thorp tallied a team-high 11 points, while forward Trey Beachler chipped in 9 points.
Note: Final score for Nevada's C-team game with Clinton was not received as of press time
Nevada makes its highly anticipated home-debut Friday, as part of boys-girls varsity doubleheader with Smith-Cotton High School.