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Clarksville’s Amarion Black takes a layup in his team’s convincing 65-49 win against Liberty-Eylau on the first day of the Clarksville Thanksgiving Invitational on Friday.

The Clarksville Blue Tigers made a statement in their first-day game at their Thanksgiving Invitational, soundly beating Liberty-Eylau 65-49 that saw them lead almost wire to wire, save for a few seconds at the very outset of the game.

Right away, point guard A’Zarrion Presley established himself, using his speed and crafty ballhandling to get to the rim at ease.

“He’s got great handles, which is why I love the ball in his hand,” Clarksville coach Stanford Hill Jr. said. “And he’s so fast, nobody can stay in front of him. He just needs to work on finishing the plays and scoring once he beats his man, but if he can do that he’ll really be great.”

Some careless turnovers — including a five-second violation in which the Tigers failed to inbound the ball in time — allowed the Leopards to stay within striking distance of the Tigers in the first quarter, but the Tigers’ own defensive aggression largely counteracted their offensive missteps.

Jayden Reed-Rose had a couple big chase-dwon blocks in the quarter, and Na’Quavus Caesar delivered one of the best defensive plays of the game when, with just under two minutes left in the quarter, he snuck in front of a Liberty-Eylau player as he drove to the basket and forced a jump ball.

The quarter ended on a highlight when Octavio Resendiz, not finding anyone open while inbounding the ball under the L-E basket, bounced the ball off the back of a Leopard player to himself and scored an easy layup.

Clarksville freshman post RK Minter found his footing in the second quarter, nailing a couple midrange jumpshots and scoring on the low block. However, his greatest impact was felt on the defensive end, as he gobbled up rebounds and altered Liberty-Eylau’s shots.

“I love what he gives this team on (the defensive) end of the floor,” Hill said. “I know that when he’s on the court, we don’t have to worry about giving up too many offensive rebounds because he’s going to get after it on the glass.”

Clarksville defense took center stage in the second quarter. It was more than halfway through the quarter before L-E put any point on the board in the period, and even longer than that before they scored a field goal. Through the entire quarter, Clarksville held them to just eight points.

The second half was an ugly affair, with both teams spending quite a lot of time at the free throw line. The Leopards were able to close the gap from 14 at the half to just eight points midway through the third, though Clarksville responded and had built the lead back up to 12 points before too long.

“It was an ugly second half, that’s for sure,” Hill said. “But I think we needed a game like this to see where we are and where we aren’t. We’ll grow from this, and I think there was quite a bit of positives to take away here.”

Tommy Culkin is sports editor for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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