Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

THOMASVILLE -- Too much Willie.

As in Willie Clayton, Thomasville's answer to power forward. Or is it power center? Or maybe just power-power?

If you play the state-ranked Bulldogs get ready for Clayton, who may just lead them back to the Class AA state title game this season.

He led them past Randolph-Clay on Thursday night in the final game of the Thomasville Holiday Hoopfest, scoring 35 points and intimidating everyone on the court in a 79-57 victory against the Red Devils, who came away from the loss looking for answers.

"We will learn from this,'' said Randolph-Clay boys coach Oglesby Jackson, who has turned the program around this season and has the traditional state power Red Devils off to a 9-4 start after an 8-15 season in 2009. "We will get better.''

Thomasville is ranked No. 3 in the coaches state poll, but that might not be a fair ranking.

The Bulldogs have split games against Herald No. 2 Bainbridge and have wins against Herald No. 3 Westover and now Randolph-Clay, which is back on the rise once again under Jackson.

Clayton and the Bulldogs will be in Albany on Jan. 7 when they meet Westover in the Civic Center as part of a doubleheader, featuring games between Herald No. 1 Monroe and Herald No. 4 Dougherty and Westover and Thomasville.

"Clayton (is the best player I've seen this year),'' Jackson said. "He scored 35 and he could have scored more if they would have passed the ball to him more. I'm just being honest.''

Randolph Clay was led by Cardaryle Curry, who scored 16 points and Tim Stringer-Davis, who added 12 points inside against Thomasville's big front line that includes Clayton at 6-foot-7 and Robert Moore at 6-8.

Get used to them. They're both juniors.

Randolph-Clay did get used to the idea of playing the Bulldogs. It just took a while.

"I guess we were intimidated in the first half,'' Jackson said. "We didn't start playing until the third quarter.''

The Red Devils trailed, 39-27, at halftime then made a run and cut the lead to 47-40 midway through the third quarter.

"They are very strong in the low post,' 'Jackson said. "We thought we could counter that with our guard play. But we didn't do it, and Clayton had a great game.''

Still, Jackson walked away looking to improve.

"It was a good test for us,'' he said. "It will make us better. It's got to make us better. It's good that we play these ranked teams now to help us get ready for the region and later in the season.''

Randolph-Clay next plays at Webster County in a Region 1B-A on Jan. 7.

Jackson said he feels even though the game ended in a one-sided finish Thursday that his kids will profit from it. The Red Devils have lost four games, but they have fallen to Thomasville, Mitchell County, Terrell County, ranked No. 4 in the Class A state poll and No. 5 in The Herald, and to Bainbridge, a Class AAAA power. They had chances to win both games.

"I'm all right,'' he said of the loss to Thomasville. "The boys don't know how close they are to having it come together."