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Clinton holds the hill

Jan. 2—There was a barbecue going just outside the gym in the crispy chill of a Carolina winter as players of the past were slated to face off to decide who would be Kings of the County. Laughter and banter could be heard throughout the day as the community came together to celebrate the rich basketball roots. Players shook hands and reminisced about times past. Age didn't stop these men from competing in the spirit of Sampson County and Clinton retained their crown in a rematch against Lakewood.

Midway v Hobbton

These two teams faced off first in the Kings of the County tournament. Midway bullied the Hobbton team for the majority of the game. The Wildcats went into halftime with a big gap to hurdle over with them trailing, 29-17.

It was all the Raiders in the second half as they just drained buckets from various angles and distances. Hobbton was powerless to defend their net and took the beating, 76-37.

Union v Lakewood (Second team)

Union held the lead for a spell before Lakewood came roaring back. The buried Union and extended their lead time 10, with a 21-11 score. The ride spiralled out of control for the Alum Spartans with Lakewood chipping away at the squishy defense. At halftime, the Leopards turned the deficit into a surplus as they tacked on 19 points in their rally against Union, 30-21.

The rivalry runs deep with both teams putting a little extra mustard on the bumps and blocks. After trailing by a decent margin, the Alum Spartans charged back into it and were down by just a pair with 10 seconds left. Unfortunately for Union they couldn't get back into it and Lakewood escaped to move in the tourney, 51-49.

Midway v Clinton

The Raiders were ready to take on Clinton in a heated game on the hardwood. The players performed with vigor and went at it like they had in times past. It was a fierce competition early on before the Dark Horses got their footing. Midway trailed going into halftime by six after a hard nosed first half, 23-18.

In the second half, the game took a bad turn for the Raiders and Clinton began their assault. The Raiders were struggling to finish their plays and ran into possession trouble as the Dark Horses pressed. Clinton handedly took the game, sending Midway home empty handed, 60-45.

Lakewood Old School v Lakewood New School

The two Leopard teams faced each other in the semi-finals for a chance to bring the title back to Lakewood. In the opening moments of the game, the Old School squad were putting the opponents in their place, showing their wisdon on the court.

The new school team managed to tie things up and the battle intensified. The players fought back and forth with slick layups and precision mid-range jumpers kept the fight close. At the half time, the New School held a tenuous lead over their opponents as neither team showed signs of letting up, 23-20.

In a nail biting affair, they had tied things up at 27 all. It wouldn't stay as the Old School had pulled out all the stops and sank a three to break the tie. As the game progressed, the New School began to crumble as they were unable to sync up the way their opposition was able to do. Age proved to be just a number in this contest as the Old School took the victory in a convincing manner and moved onto the final round for a repeat appearance and opportunity to avenge their loss from the summer, 55-47.

Clinton v Lakewood (Finals)

The Dark Horses had the Leopards number in the finals. Clinton seemed unstoppable with no one on the opposing side able to shut down the rampaging Horses.

Lakewood found themselves in a pickle as they were rendered helpless with the opposition scoring at whim. Those clever passes and smart sets fell apart with their opponents having an answer for all of them. Clinton carried a strong lead at the end of the half, 32-21.

The Dark Horses carried the game as Lakewood continued to falter on the hardwood. The idea of taking title was growing dim as the Leopards were falling further and further back. Clinton was all smiles as they were handedly taking Lakewood to task and dominating in the later half of the game. The Dark Horses took the win, 75-56.

Marcus Graham of Lakewood has been pivotal in this tournament gaining ground. With the 5th tournament in the books, he commented on the turnout and how the games went.

"I believe it was a great turnout. We had a good amount of people to come out to watch. I'm hoping that coach Powell and I can expand it and make it even bigger. I believe the competition was good." Marcus Graham commented.

He continued on to speak Clinton's play and his outlook for the 6th tourney coming again in the summer.

"I have got to give it to Clinton they've always had my respect since my playing days. They've always had some good talent come through. The group that they always bring to the tournament have great chemistry and it shows. This makes 2 years in a row they beat us in the championship. So im looking forward to another chance at redemption in the July tournament."

Reach Anthony McConnaughey at amcconnaughey@clintonnc.com, X @SportsSampson and the Sampson Independent Facebook page