By Doug Gorman
What a difference a year makes.
At the 2003 Heritage Bank Classic, the Clayton State women's basketball team lost a heartbreaker to Carson-Newman in the finals of the holiday event.
Jump ahead 365 days, and the two teams again met in the tournament finals on Thursday.
Only this time the Lady Lakers and their fans liked the outcome, as CCSU rolled to a 76-54 win.
Clayton State improved its record to 8-3. Carson-Newman dropped to 8-2.
"This should serve as a really good measuring stick for our program," said first-year Clayon State coach Dennis Cox. "Carson-Newman had only lost one time this year and that was to Division I Jacksonville State.
Clayton State won the game by playing well in spurts.
After falling behind 8-2 early in contest, Basia Bukowska gave the Lady Lakers the momentum when she connected on two straight back-to-back 3-point shots.
Bukowska's treys started Clayton State on a 27-2 run. The Lady Lakers built a 29-12 lead with 5:32 remaining in the first half.
For nearly 10 minutes little went right for Carson-Newman, which committed 15 turnovers in the first 20 minutes of the game.
Then it was the Lady Eagles turn to go on a scoring spurt.
The Lady Eagles outscored CCSU 15-9 in the final minutes of the first half to cut the lead to 37-23 at the end of the first half.
Carson-Newman came out on fire in the second half, putting a scare into the Lady Lakers with tough defense and stout offense.
The Lady Eagles outscored Clayton State 24-13 to open the final 20 minutes. A pair of free throws by Brooke Johnson cut the CCSU lead to three at 50-47.
"I know this might sound like a strange thing to say, but I was a little worried when we got that big lead in the first half," he said. "As a coach, you always worry about your team letting down. I knew Carson-Newman was going to make a comeback. They are too good of a basketball team."
With the Lady Lakers in danger of letting the game and the tournament championship get away, Cox's troops answered his wake-up call.
Jamika Hindsman, who played only 22 minutes because of foul trouble, saved her best basketball for late in the game.
The senior converted several Carson-Newman turnovers into baskets. At one point, she scored six straight points, all after stealing the ball in the Lady Eagles' end of the floor.
Hindsman, who scored 14 of her 17 points in the second half, was named the MVP of the tournament.
Teammates Jasmine Patterson and Brandi Catia scored 11 points each as CCSU shot 40.6 percent from the field.
Carson-Newman's Brooke Johnson scored 14 points for the Lady Eagles.