By Derrick Mahone
Ola went into halftime of its Region 4-AAAA showdown at North Clayton feeling good about its three point lead against a taller Eagles squad.
North Clayton coach Martisse Troup let his team know about his disappointment in their lack of hustle and defense.
What had the makings of a close game turned into a 65-42 North Clayton win in a key region matchup Tuesday night.
Down 22-19 at the intermission, the Eagles outscored Ola 26-7 to take control of the game with their fierce defensive pressure that included fullcourt pressure.
"We started out flat, and we were not playing North Clayton basketball," Troup said. "We were settling too much for jumpshots. It was identical of our only loss this season. We got on them at halftime and reminded them we needed to play defense. You win with your defense."
When asked about Troup's halftime talk, guard Antwaun Murphy just smiled.
"He told us we need to work harder," Murphy said. "Coach said we weren't playing with any heart."
Whatever he said seemed to light a fire under the team. The Eagles took a 45-29 lead into the final quarter, and was never challenged.
The win provided North Clayton with a sweep as the girls' team defeated Ola 58-40 to win its second straight game.
Sophomore Marcus Hunt led the Eagles with 20 points while Clayton State signee Zach Bradley added 16. Clarence Jackson came off the bench to contribute 11 points. The Mustangs got 13 points from Tim Mason.
This was the second straight loss for Ola, which started the season with four straight wins. The Mustangs lost 88-69 to region leader Stockbridge on Friday.
"In the first half, we were playing great defense," Ola coach Curt Miller said. "In the second half it was no defense. We quit doing the things that got us the three-point lead. They went to a trap and we didn't handle it like we should have. North Clayton came out hungry in the second half."
With the win, North Clayton improves to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the region while the Mustangs fall to 4-2 and 3-2 heading into the holiday break. Both teams will play in local holiday tournaments with Ola opening play Friday in the Chuck Miller Classic while North Clayton plays in the second annual Memphis vs. Atlanta Roundball Christmas Classic on Dec. 26.
Troup said a big region win before the holiday break will give us team some added confidence.
"It helps build you as a team," Troup said. "Our seniors are leading us and playing like seniors."
In the girls' contest, Miranda Cantrell had a game-high 20 points and teammate Ariele Thomas added 17 in the North Clayton win. The Eagles played the majority of the fourth quarter without Cantrell, who fouled out with 7:22 remaining in the game and North Clayton holding a 43-28 lead. North Clayton travels to Southwest DeKalb on Friday to take on Tucker in the first round of the DeKalb Holiday Tournament.
Ola was led by Laura Carter and Savannah Cook, who had nine points each. The Eagles improved to 3-4 and 2-5 while Ola remains winless in seven games.
"This gives us some confidence going into the tournament," North Clayton coach Kimleon Turner said. "We had begin to get frustrated, but we know there is still a lot of basketball. We still got 18 more games."
The biggest highlight for Ola was when Carter made a shot from midcourt as time expired in the first quarter.