The Clay Eagles stayed close with defending City League basketball champion Libbey for one half last night at Savage Hall.
The second half was an entirely different story, however, as the Cowboys turned up the defense and rolled to an easy 73-33 victory.
William Buford topped the Cowboys (11-1, 7-1) with 18 points, and Libbey, which had 11 players score, also got 12 points from Tony Brown and 11 from Brad Sandridge in staying atop the CL standings.
Clay (5-6, 3-5), which was paced by nine points from 6-foot-9 Zac Taylor, plus eight from Drew Kuns, was still within 22-17 after a bucket from Terence Huggins at 1:12 before halftime.
But the Cowboys ended the half on a free throw from Rodney Everage and a putback basket from Sandridge to take a 25-17 lead to the break.
That was just the beginning of what would become a 24-0 Libbey run as the Cowboys opened the half with 21 unanswered points, including 13 from Buford.
When Buford, the 6-5 star, slammed a dunk after rocketing in from the right baseline, Libbey had a 46-17 lead with 1:14 left in the third quarter.
"I liked the defensive side of the ball," Libbey coach Leroy Bates said. "The guys played real good defense. Clay made us work for our shots in the first half, and we got back-doored a couple times. That's something we corrected.
"You hold any team to two points in a quarter and you're playing real good defense."
Kuns finally connected on a 15-footer with 39 seconds left in that period to end the Eagles' drought.
"We knew that they would be deliberate, and what we wanted to do is change the pace of the game a little bit," Bates said of his team's halftime adjustment. "The defense did that, not the offense.
"I was pleased with the way that the guys continued to work together as a team. As long as they're playing that kind of basketball, then we can get some good results from it."
The Cowboys forced 18 of Clay's 25 turnovers after halftime, when they outscored the Eagles 48-16.
"We had talked all week about needing to limit their second shots," Clay coach Joe Guerrero said, "and in the first half they got two offensive rebounds and three-point plays afterward. That was a killer in the first half.
"We were able to be patient [after halftime], but they are just so quick and athletic. A lot of it has to go to their defense. They just seem to turn up the pressure, and we just weren't able to handle it."
Clay managed to get off just seven third-quarter shots, missing the first six. By contrast, Libbey was 10-of-15 from the field in that period, including five transition baskets.
"It was like hockey," Guerrero said. "We couldn't clear our end. It seemed like it was down at the other end so much of the time. When we did get it in to Zac [Taylor], we had some success. But getting it into him was a little bit of a problem tonight."
Libbey was 31-of-57 (54 percent) from the field, including 6-of-16 on 3-pointers, but hit just 5-of-14 from the foul line. The Cowboys outrebounded the Eagles 29-23.
Clay was 13-of-34 (39 percent) from the field and hit six of nine free throws.
Contact Steve Junga at: