No. 3 Clayton State women come up short against No. 9 USC Aiken in PBC Tournament championship
COLUMBUS, Ga. – March 4, 2012 – Aiming for its fourth Peach Belt Conference Tournament championship in the last eight seasons, the Clayton State Laker women's basketball team came up short in its quest, dropping a tough 52-47 decision against USC Aiken in Sunday's championship at the Lumpkin Center.
The defeat snaps a 10-game winning streak for Clayton State, which is ranked third in the nation in Division II. The Lakers are now 28-3 overall, and will earn an at-large bid to the 2012 NCAA Division II National Tournament for an eighth straight season.
No. 9 USC Aiken, which won its first PBC Tournament title, improves to 26-3 overall and wins the Peach Belt Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
"They (USC Aiken) came out and stuck it to us, played us real physical and we didn't respond to that very well," said Clayton State head coach Dennis Cox. "We showed a lot heart and character in the second half making the comeback that we did, but sometimes it takes so much energy to make that comeback that it's hard to finish.
"USC Aiken has always been a tough match-up for us, and they won the game within the game today."
Unlike Saturday's semifinal victory over Lander, Clayton State started the game sluggish, shooting only 24 percent from the field and making only one 3-point basket. The Lakers at one point trailed by 11 points as the Pacers' Daniela Tarailo made a baseline jumper at the 6:52 mark.
Clayton State trimmed the deficit to four points 24-20 on a jumper in the lane by Kayla Mobley, but USC Aiken closed out the half scoring the final six points to lead 30-20 at halftime.
The Lakers got down by as many as 16 points early in the second half before slowly and methodically chipping away at the USC Aiken lead. Clayton State used a 9-1 run to trim the lead to eight points as Tanisha Woodard twice scored in transition and Mobley scored on a baseline layup at the 10:33 mark.
A 3-point basket by Brittany Hall, followed by back-to-back lay-ups by Dixon and Shannon Smith trimmed the USC Aiken lead to 43-42 with 7:36 remaining. After USC Aiken pushed the lead back to five points, Smith scored again in the lane to cut the Pacer lead to 49-47 at the 1:16 mark.
Clayton State made a defensive stop and had a chance to either tie or take the lead. But a Laker turnover with 35 seconds remaining put Pacer guard Brittany Hill at the free throw line. She converted the first but missed the second, giving the Lakers another opportunity.
The two teams traded turnovers before Clayton State had a final shot to tie it with 18 seconds remaining. However, Dixon's corner 3-point attempt was off.
Dixon scored 15 points off the bench for Clayton State, while Woodard scored 11 points and Mobley added nine points. Woodard and Mobley were both selected to the All-Tournament team. PBC Tournament Most Valuable Player Hannah DeGraffinreed paced USC Aiken with 18 points and Kayla Harris scored 15 points.