Laker women improve to 13-0 with 86-65 win over North Georgia
MORROW, GA – A 20-2 run five minutes into the second half was the difference Saturday, as the 3rd-ranked Clayton State women's basketball team captured its 13th win of the season downing Peach Belt Conference rival North Georgia 86-65 at the Athletics & Fitness Center.
The win sets up a much anticipated matchup against the Peach Belt's other undefeated and highly ranked team in USC Aiken. The 4th-ranked Pacers defeated Montevallo 68-60 on Saturday, improving to 12-0 on the season.
Tipoff for Wednesday's game in Aiken, SC, is 5:30 p.m. The contest between 3rd-ranked Clayton State and 4th-ranked USC Aiken will be highest rankings of two Peach Belt teams in a regular season game since the 2011 epic contest that featured top-ranked Lander and 2nd-ranked Clayton State. The Lakers won that contest 83-81 en route to the 2010-11 NCAA Division II National Championship.
In Saturday's game, the Lakers led 44-42 six minutes into the second half before the squad exploded on a game-clinching stretch. Two free throws by forward Jessica Covington ignited the run, followed by 3-pointers from guard Drameka Griggs and Covington to give the team a 10-point lead, 52-42, with 11:57 left.
Clayton State kept it rolling with four straight free throws by Griggs, followed by a basket in the paint by forward Kayla Mobley. North Georgia answered with two free throws by Stephanie Huffman to cut the Laker lead to 14 points, only to have Covington immediately answer with a jumper.
A basket by center Shacamra Jackson, followed by another jumper by Covington gave the Lakers a 20-point lead, 64-44, with 7:16 remaining in the contest. Clayton State pushed its lead to as many 25 points and led by at least 17 points for the rest of the game.
"North Georgia's size affected us offensively, so we had to make some outside shots," said head coach Dennis Cox. "We were able to make some in the second half to get us going.
Cox continued, "I thought Auburn Randolph really gave us a spark off the bench. She came in and gave us some energy in some key moments when we were in foul trouble."
The first half of Saturday's game was tightly contested with four lead changes and the game being tied six times. Neither team led by more than five points in the period, and Clayton State took a 31-30 lead at intermission.
Griggs tied a season high with 26 points in the victory, hitting 8-of-14 shots from the floor. She also had seven assists and three steals. Covington and guard Bena Hanyard each had 12 points, followed by center Shannon Smith with 10 points and six boards. Jackson led the squad on the boards with 11 rebounds and six points.
"Drameka (Griggs) picked us up and carried us again," said Cox. "She is such a dynamic player and is able to make so many plays."
For North Georgia, Huffman scored 21 points, followed by Jaymee Carnes with 19 points.
North Georgia shot better than the Lakers from the field, hitting 43 percent (22-of-51) from the floor compared to 42 percent (32-of-76) for Clayton State. The Lakers had 25 more shot attempts aided by 34 turnovers by the Saints.