Candace Morton is a senior at Henry Clay but she already sounds like a veteran coach.
When the Devils blew an eight-point halftime lead and fell behind at Sayre in the third quarter Monday, Morton didn't worry.
"We just had to calm down and get everyone back focused on the game," she said. "We had to get it under control before we spiraled out of control."
Morton and the Devils did just that and used strong defense to beat the Spartans 49-43.
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Morton had six points during an 11-4 run to end the third quarter and get Henry Clay out of its hole.
The Devils had fallen behind after Sayre scored 10 unanswered in the third quarter, capped by two Maddie Mitchell free throws.
Mitchell led the Spartans with 14 points and five rebounds. Gabby Bowie added 13 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots.
The win was the fifth for the Devils, matching last season's total. Again, Morton sounded like a coach as she talked about the 10-32 record the past two seasons.
"The record really doesn't matter as long as we're improving," Morton said. "And we're improving every game."
Both Morton and first-year coach Justin Schommer saw marked improvement from the Devils as they responded to the Spartans' run.
"We picked up the intensity defensively," Schommer said. "Sayre came out and attacked us, and we were a little flat-footed."
Sayre kept it interesting in the final minutes, using an 8-2 run to pull to 44-43 before Henry Clay scored the game's final five points.
"We had to work our way back, and that's tough when a team is pressing you every second of the game and you're playing six players," Sayre Coach Scott Sutton said.
Sutton said his team has some things to learn during this final run of games to end the season.
"We have to learn to execute better down the stretch," he said. "Not just in the last minute, but in the last minute of quarters."
But Sutton said he's been pleased so far with his Spartans, who were expected to have a down year with so many graduations and dwindling depth.
Sayre (15-5) had won 13 of 15 coming into Monday night's district contest.
For Henry Clay, it was an important win "because we want to get some momentum going for the end of the season," Schommer said. "Hopefully we can keep it up."
HENRY CLAY (5-12) — Evans 0-2 1-2 1, Morris 0-3 0-0 0, McGraw 0-3 0-0 0, Morton 5-17 8-11 21, Price 3-8 1-2 7, Dunham 3-5 0-1 7, Claus 4-9 1-4 9, Moss 1-2 1-2 4, James 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 16-52 12-22 49.
SAYRE (15-5) — Cameron 3-8 2-2 8, Brown 2-3 0-0 4, Mitchell 5-12 3-3 14, O'Rourke 2-6 0-0 4, Culbertson 0-4 0-0 0, Bowie 6-8 1-4 13. Totals 18-41 6-9 43.
Henry Clay 11 12 13 13—49
Sayre 7 8 16 12—43