It took the entire regular season to get to it, but Clayton State head coach Gordon Gibbons recorded yet another milestone on Saturday.
On "Senior Day" at Clayton State, the Laker men closed out the regular season in winning fashion with an impressive 66-55 Peach Belt Conference victory over visiting Francis Marion at the Athletics and Fitness Center. The victory improves Clayton State to 14-13 overall and 7-13 in the conference heading into next week's Peach Belt Conference Tournament.
For Gibbons, however, it was his 400th victory in his illustrious Division II head coach career of 18 seasons. Overall, he is now 400-150 with a winning percentage of .727. He's 154-85 in his eighth season at Clayton State, and 246-65 in 10 previous seasons at Florida Southern.
Two seniors playing their final games at the Athletics and Fitness Center stepped up in fine fashion for the Lakers. Forward Brian Kelly scored 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field, while wing Ricky Garrett also scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Since replacing an injured Freddie Williams in the Laker starting lineup, Garrett has averaged 13 points over the last five games.
Clayton State took control of the game in the second half. Trailing 33-29, the Lakers went on a 13-2 run over a six-minute stretch. Kelly gave Clayton State the lead for good on a lay-up at the 16:07 mark, and then a 3-point basket by Will Lewis stretched the Laker lead to 42-35 with 13:44 left.
The Patriots (16-11, 9-11 PBC) never got closer than three points after that. After Francis Marion cut the Laker lead to 42-39 on a jumper in the lane by Matt French, Clayton State answered with a quick 7-0 run. Tre Goss, scored five points in the rally, including a driving lay-up to give the Lakers a 49-39 lead wt the 10:26 mark.
A three-point basket by Anthony Wallen brought Francis Marion to within seven points at 56-49, but that was as close as the Patriots would get. Clayton State three times pushed its lead back to 13 points, including 66-53 on two free throws by Eric Wilson with 1:05 left.
Defensively, Clayton State held Francis Marion to only 33 percent shooting from the field and only 31 percent shooting from 3-point range. In the second half alone, the Patriots managed only 29 percent shooting from the field, including only 23 percent from 3-point range. Jaquas Dobbs added nine points for the Lakers, and Wilson and Goss each added eight points.
For Francis Marion, Wallen scored 14 points, including nine in the first half as the Patriots led 30-29 at halftime. David Turner scored 12 points and Kevin Clark scored 10 points for Francis Marion.