By Brian Paglia
North Clayton boys basketball coach Martisse Troup had seen too many games slip away from his Eagles because of poor free throw shooting this season, and now he paced on the sidelines with just seconds remaining, North Clayton up by two and guard Jimmy Williams at the foul line. If the Eagles really wanted to win, they would need
Troup had to little to worry about seconds later. Williams made both free throws, clinching North Clayton's 56-52 victory over visiting Ola in a Region 4-AAAA game Friday night. It gave the Eagles their fourth win in the past five games and assured they would keep pace in the tumultuous region standings for another day.
Even though North Clayton (14-8, 8-5) led by as many 11 points in the third quarter, recent history suggested Ola (9-13, 5-9) would be undaunted. The Mustangs had proved that in mounting a precipitous rise in the standings with a five-game winning streak, and if any doubt about their skill lingered, their comeback from an 18-point halftime deficit to defeat Griffin last Tuesday established the unique parity that has come to characterize Region 4-AAAA this season.
After North Clayton's Torian Box hit one free throw in the double bonus to make it 54-50, Ola's Jessie Jenkins made a back-door layup to cut the lead to two points. The Mustangs were forced to foul on the ensuing inbounds, trusting that Williams, who was 0-for-2 from the foul line until that point, would miss at least one free throw. Instead, he calmly made both.
"Free throws almost cost us," Troup said. "We've lost about six games this year by not making free throws."
Besides its free throw struggles, North Clayton also had to overcome the loss of guard Jeffrey Newberry to a season-ending injury suffered last Saturday against Riverdale. Already dealing with an injury to key reserve Marcus Hunt, and the departure of 6-foot-8 center Emmanuel Dieke who enrolled early at Georgia Tech, the Eagles simply inserted the next players in line.
Zach Bradley scored with his array of jump shots and drives for a game-high 22 points. But just as essential was Antwaun Murphy's 11 points off the bench, or Justin Ravnell's six points and two blocks.
"We're going to play as a team," Bradley said. "The shots were just there for me tonight, so I was able to knock them down."
Without its normal vigor, the Mustangs encountered a deficit it couldn't overcome. Jessie Jenkins led Ola with 11 points, but there wasn't enough to overcome leading scorer Tim Mason's shooting struggles. Mason finished with 10 points.
"We were going through the motions," Ola coach Curt Miller said. "I hope a five-game winning streak didn't go to our heads, but we just we through the motions. We just did not play our game the first half at all. We didn't really play it the second half. We played better, we just never wole up."
· North Clayton 60, Ola 35 (Girls): The Lady Eagles held the Lady Mustangs scoreless through the first 10:14 of the game and cruised the rest of the way in its Region 4-AAAA victory at home Friday night.
Marshunda Anderson had 13 points, five rebounds and four steals to lead North Clayton (13-9, 8-5).
Crystal Nwapara helped the Lady Eagles establish a dominant front court presence with 13 points, five rebounds and two blocks. Behind Nwapara, Valencia Williams and Miranda Cantrell, the Lady Eagles had a 40-15 rebounding advantage.
Laura Carter led Ola (4-18, 2-12) with 13 points.