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St. Fort and Hardeman to CSU victory

Saturday was "Senior Day" at Clayton State, and it was the seniors that stepped up in dramatic fashion for the Clayton State Laker women's basketball team.

Behind the stellar play of seniors Shanrika Hardeman and Marie St. Fort, Clayton State closed out the regular season in dramatic fashion with a thrilling 86-80 overtime victory over seventh-ranked Francis Marion at the Athletics and Fitness Center. The victory concludes Clayton State's regular season at 22-5 overall and 16-4 in the Peach Belt Conference.

The Lakers will be the No. 2 seed in next week's Peach Belt Conference Tournament in Aiken, S.C.

Hardeman had her banner game in a Laker uniform, recording a double-double with a whopping 22 points and 18 rebounds. St. Fort, meanwhile, overcame a sluggish start and scored 16 points, mostly late when Clayton State needed it the most.

Francis Marion (24-3, 17-3 PBC) had led throughout. In fact, the Patriots built as big as a 12-point lead in the second half. However, Clayton State rallied with a 14-2 run over five-minute stretch to tie the game. Hardeman's lay-up at the 6:26 mark deadlocked the game at 53-53

Again, the Patriots regained the lead, stretching to as much as six points on a jump shot by Robin Colbert with 3:29 left. But again, the Lakers rallied to tie the game again before Francis Marion regained the lead by three points with 38 seconds remainin

The Patriots had the ball with a chance to ice it, but a jump shot by Shannon Singleton-Bates was off. Clayton State's Lesheria Stevens rebounded the miss, and then found Hardeman for a 15-foot baseline jump shot with 10 seconds remaining.

On the play, however, St. Fort was fouled underneath. She calmly sank both free throws to give the Lakers a 66-65 lead. It appeared as if Clayton State had in the bag when Francis Marion point guard Kevina Ransom was whistled with a charging foul with 1.6 seconds left.

But the junior guard stole the Laker inbounds pass, and was fouled with three-10ths of a second remaining. Ransom missed the first free throw, but made the second to force overtime.

But in the overtime, St. Fort scored the Lakers' first 10 points as Clayton State raced out to an 80-72 lead in the extra session. The closest Francis Marion was able to get was five points down the stretch.

In addition to Hardeman and St. Fort, Stevens scored 17 points off the bench to go with nine rebounds and nine assists, just missing a triple-double. Fellow senior Nikkisha Pritchett scored 12 points and freshman Brittany Hall added nine points for the Lakers

For Francis Marion, Creshenda Singletary paced the Patriots with 14 points, followed by Shana Franks with