CLAYTON STATE REACHES NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME!
With their second consecutive defensive masterpiece, the Clayton State Lakers continued their history-making run on Wednesday night with a 63-46 win over Shaw and will become the first Peach Belt women's basketball team ever to play in the national championship game.
The Lakers forced 29 turnovers and held Shaw to a .246 shooting
percentage as they outscored the Bears 36-23 in the second half
alone. With the win, Clayton State improves to 34-1 overall
while Shaw, the #8 seed in the atlantic region, sees their
cinderalla season come to a close with a 25-12 mark.
The game was similar in flow to the Lakers' quarterfinal win over Bentley on Tuesday as a close first half led to a Laker explosion in the second. Once again, Clayton State was in control early, racing out to an 11-1 run after the opening tip. Shaw did not score their first field goal until 9:23 had run off the clock when Demaria Liles hit a layup and converted a three-point play.
Down 14-5, Shaw began their comeback with 8:34 left in the first half and cut the lead down to one with 4:23 to go as Brittany Spencer hit a pair of free throws. Shaw was also solid on defense, forcing 22 Clayton State turnovers with 10 steals.
Kayla Mobley and Renee Jackson answered with back-to-back layups for the Lakers to push the lead back to 25-17 and two more Jackson free throws put the margin at 10 with 2:10 to go. Shaw answered with the final six points of the half as Liles hit again on a driving layup followed by a three-pointer from Genesis Kelly to make the halftime score 27-23.
The Bears carried that momentum into the second half and took a 34-33 lead on two Kelly free throws with 15:18 to play.
They would only score 13 points the rest of the game.
Clayton State went on the move after Janelle Harrison hit a layup and then a free throw to re-establish a two-point lead. That was the start of a massive 17-3 Laker run that spanned nearly seven minutes. The Bears were held scoreless for nearly four minutes and committed seven turnovers during that interval. Teshymia Tillman, who struggled overall on the night, capped the run with a fastbreak layup that left the Lakers up 50-37 with 8:16 to play.
Aslea Williams cut that lead back down to 11 with two free throws for the Bears, but Harrison answered again for the Lakers with a layup which led to a big three-pointer from Tillman with 5:48 to go that seemed to deflate the Bear team as the lead rose to 16. Timethia Bennett hit a three that cut the lead to 13, but the Bears would get no closer as Clayton State got free throws from Kyria Buford and another Harrison layup to put the game out of reach.
The Lakers struggled with their shooting, hitting 36% from the field and 5-of-23 three-pointers (.217). Kayla Mobley led the attack with 13 points while Renee Jackson added 10. After scoring 22 in the quarterfinal against Bentley, Tillman was held to seven points, but did have five rebounds, three steals and a block. Tanisha Woodard also had trouble finding the bottom of the net, but led the team with nine rebounds, five steals and four assists.
Liles led the Bears with a game-high double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds while Aslea Williams added 11 points and nine boards. Shaw hit only two of eight three-pointers, but kept themselves in the game with a 46-42 rebounding edge over Clayton State.
Once again the depth of Clayton State came to the forefront as the Laker bench outscored the Bear reserves 33-9. Clayton State also had 26 points off of turnovers compared to 13 for Shaw.
The Lakers will make history when they become the first PBC team to step on the court in a national championship game on Friday night in the St. Joseph Civic Arena. The Lakers will face off against Michigan Tech, who defeated Northwest Missouri State in the other semifinal. The championship game will be played at 8:00 pm and televised on ESPN2.
Video Highlights (Courtesy NCAA)