By Keith Taylor
Special to the Register
Madison Southern had no answer for Khamarkis Blanton.
The George Rogers Clark High School senior snapped out of a slump with 23 points, including 12 of the Cardinals’ 21 points in the third quarter to lead Clark to a 71-53 win over Madison Southern Friday night at Norton Gymnasium.
Blanton scored 20 points in the second half as the Cards pulled away from the pesky Eagles. Blanton had six rebounds, including five on the offensive end.
“We tried to play behind him, double him, he wore us out,” Madison Southern coach Shane Buttry said. “We would try to front him and he would skip the ball to the other side of the floor. When we did do a good job, he would kick it out and they would hit a couple of threes. He’s a really good player. I like him.”
Clark coach Scott Humphrey challenged Blanton to “get better” or “he was going to quit” during practice Thursday and the senior responded to Humphrey’s call.
“We put the heat on him, because the way he’s been playing has been totally unacceptable,” Humphrey said. “A lot of that has been effort-related and he’s just been in a funk. I thought tonight he played hard and it’s the first time we’ve seen that in about a month.
“I’m proud of him for bouncing back. Not a lot of kids could take the heat we’ve been putting on him to get him going. Now, we need to build on it.”
The two teams battled through four lead changes in the first four minutes before the Cardinals gained control and closed out the first quarter with a 16-6 run, turning an 8-2 deficit into an 18-14 advantage.
Guard Damion King gave Clark a spark with eight points during the spree. King led the Cards with 13 points and made two of his team’s three three-pointers in the first half.
King followed Blanton with 18 points and Braxton Greene rounded out three Clark players in 13 points.
The Cards stretched the margin to double figures after opening the second quarter with a 15-4 run for a 33-18 lead. Clark led 33-22 at the half.
Southern struggled to find the rim in the second quarter and managed just two field goals. The Eagles had just eight field goals in the opening two quarters and had four of those in the first four minutes of the contest.
“They locked us down,” Buttry said. “We didn’t run (our plays much) and we didn’t get any good shots because of their defense, really. They locked us up. They’re a lot quicker and more athletic than us and they owned the boards in the second quarter and the whole game, really.
“The second quarter killed us.”
The Eagles pulled to within eight at 47-39 late in the third quarter, but Clark scored seven-straight points to close out the quarter and seven-straight to begin the fourth frame for a 61-39 lead.
“It was a good night for us,” Humphrey said. “Even in the junior varsity game, I thought our kids played well on both levels. I feel like we’re getting better. We just need to start winning games more consistently. Our guys are excited and they’re attitude is tremendous.”
Stacy Burns led the Eagles with 16 points, with 14 of those coming in the second half. Burns left with 1:35 remaining after hitting the floor while going for a block.
“He got up really dizzy,” Buttry said. “He had cut that eye against Madison Central in the first game of the year. He goes out when we were down seven and we lose by 21. I’m hoping for the best but whatever it takes to get him well. It’s just January. It’s a big week next week, but we’ll try to play without him if we have to.”
Wes Kidwell had 11 points for Southern, Trevor Huff had nine points, Antonio Thrash had six points, Caleb Miller had five points, Andrew Miller had four points and Michael Jefferson added two points.
Southern is set to return to action Tuesday at home against Model.