All photo and video credits for Clarendon sports credited to Elizabeth Zongker. Thank you!
1. #23 Senior Jamal Butler makes himself "big" in the post.
2. #23 Senior Mattee Johnson, coming right "atchya" as she outraces the Pampa defense in transition. She dominated overtime.
3. #4 Star freshman Sylvester Ballard snagging the board and gathering himself for an end to end score
4. #1 Junior Jade Benson's smothering D along with trailing help from #22 Junior Ashlynn Newsome
5. #0 Frosh Jmaury Davis, skies for the board. He had the game's only dunk.
The D1 Nation was in the house Tuesday night for a high school hoops double header as the Clarendon varsity girls hosted Pampa Harvesters. In the night cap, the Clarendon boys tangled with Borger Bulldogs. Both of the opponents are 4A while Clarendon is 2A.
This is the way you build a program and make it better. You schedule bigger, tough opponents in non district to challenge your kids to step up and develop. Kudos to Athletic Director & Coach Clint Conkin and his wife Korey Conkin, who also coaches the girls squad. I'd want my grandson to play for a coach like him.
Clarendon 12-12-10-10-10 54
Pampa 6- 9- 13-16-5 49
This was my first opportunity to view the girls and it was enjoyable. Much like the 8th grade game I caught the day prior, the varsity girls are organized, fundamental and unselfish. Obviously the leadership from varsity coaches has filtered down to the "young uns" to give the program a blueprint.
Clarendon charged hard out of the gate and sticking with their MO for the majority of the game they picked up full court and caused a high number of turnovers both in the back court and full court. Their starting five included 2 seniors, 2 juniors and a sophomore.
It was early and often for 2021 Jade Benson who was the toughest player on the floor. She rebounded hard (10 boards), scored the ball (14 points) and picked the Harvesters pockets with 4 steals. For almost 4 quarters she was my D1 Nation Player of the Game, and then Overtime happened!
Senior Mattee Johnson was having a solid game to that point, she'd notched 7 points (5 from the free throw line) and 6 rebounds. Slowly Pamap was chipping away and the 8 point Clarendon lead didn't look safe anymore. With less than 44 minutes left in the game, Coach Conkin called a well timed timeout, to gather her troops and settle them down. However it did not stop the Harvesters run.
Then late in the 4th quarter the 8 point Clarendon lead had evaporated and the score was tied with time running out. Johnson had a key field goal, without it Clarendon may have taken the loss in regulation. Pampa never led in regulation.
Out of OT the Harvesters took their first lead and it looked like the tide had turned and the wheels were about to fall off. But hold on a minute!. Johnson calmly hit a 3 pointer to put the Lady Broncos in front and then she add 4 more points in the OT, which Clarendon dominated. Senior leadership down the stretch allowed the Lady Broncos to win going away so I'm going to sit on the fence and name both Benson and Johnson as Co-Game MVP's.
Senior G Kira Weatherton chipped in with 7 points, while Jr Guard Ashlynn Newsome ran the offense and had a stat line of 7 points/4 boards/2 assists and 4 steals. The other starter, 2022 Madison Smith showed flashes of the player she can become with 5 points/5 boards.
In my 25 plus years of training, developing and coaching kids I have always stayed true to not criticizing players by name individually, in print. I pretty much live by, "If I have nothing good to say, then I say nothing at all". I will however give comparisons and contrasts as to how a player has improved from time to time in contrast to where they were before. In this case I'm going to do that. I first viewed the boys varsity 2 weeks ago, after just coming out of football and having only two practices. For those of you who follow 5A and 6A schools only a few kids go from football to basketball.
At that level there are simply too many good athletes that focus on only one sport that it's rare when they're "shared" 3A and below, it's a whole different animal. It's like when I was a kid. We played every sport from season to season. So, I think it was safe to say that few of the Clarendon players had touched a basketball seriously since last February. Against Hereford they looked lost. Their skills were rusty and their basketball IQ's were still in mothballs. The positives were that they hustled and were athletic, but they got their hats handed to them by 20.
Fast forward to Tuesday evening when they hosted the Borger Bulldogs. In the lay up line Borger looked bigger and deeper than Clarendon. However the games aren't played in the lay up lines. In my opinion good teams are not defined by their offense, they're defined by their defense and the grit they have. Offense comes from your defense in most cases.
I like Clarendon's chances. This looked like a different team. Hereford was not noticeably better than Borger yet the Broncos flipped the script and graduated from a 20 point loss to a 16 point win, 70-54. That's a 36 point differential.
2020 Jamal Butler, the 6'5" post man was a beast on the boards. He finished with 13 points, mostly from his rebounding efforts and added 9 rebounds. College coaches, Butler is a must look as he's a chiseled 6'5" athlete with bounce and soft hands. He's likely too raw skill wise to have much impact as a college basketball player (although hard work can overcome this).
In my opinion he's an immediate contributor at Wide Receiver. He had an outstanding senior year and the "jump ball" pass on the outside was one of Clarendon's bread and butter plays as the made the Texas UIL Playoffs. He's an excellent student with a 3.6 core GPA. I had a chance to speak with him briefly last week and he's a very quiet, respectful and humble young man. College coaches, he's a hidden gem here in Clarendon, TX.
The single biggest individual improvement was from Freshman Sylvester Ballard. He's still learning rotations and other nuances but he was the defensive spark for Clarendon with his "in your pocket" defense and raw emotions.
Ballard had 21 points/10 boards/7 steals. Stats don't always tell but in this case it did. Not only did he put up numbers. When Borger made their two runs it was Ballard's defense and effort that shut the Bulldogs down.
Fellow Freshman Jmaury Davis is also a willing defender 8 points/5 rebounds. He's aggressive and he also displays "in your grille" on ball defense. He needs to stop gambling quite so much, once he does that he becomes a real defensive stopper. The first 6 of his points were from the free throw line, and the last 2 had the crowd hyped as he stole the ball and thundered down the games only dunk.
2021 Donovan Thompson also had a big impact with 17 points/5 rebounds. Defensive effort and tough work on the boards were the deciding factor in this game. I like where this team is headed. They are young, and seem hungry.