By Derrick Mahone
With a team that is a little less experienced, and not as tall as last season, North Clayton realizes that it must win this season with defense.
After a dismal showing in their first game three days ago, Eagles coach Martisse Troup was more pleased with his team's defensive effort Friday.
With junior Marcus Hunt fueling the offensive effort with 23 points, the sixth-ranked Eagles defeated visiting Mundy's Mill 59-51 in a Region 4-AAAA contest.
It improved North Clayton, the defending regular season region champions, to 1-1 after opening the season with a loss at Tri-Cities earlier in the week.
"The last time out we played pretty flat," Hunt said. "We weren't hitting our shots in that game. We pushed ourselves harder in practice these last couple of days. We had more confidence in our defense, and we played defense better tonight."
"It was a big win," he said. "We needed this win because it was a region game, and they are all important games. We believe if we keep teams in the 50s, we give ourselves a better chance at winning. We can't allow teams to get above 60 points. We will have to win with our defense this season because we are so young."
The win improved the Eagles to 1-1 overall and in the region. This was the season opener for Mundy's Mill, which dropped from Class AAAAA to AAAA this season.
North Clayton jumped to a 19-9 first quarter lead, and seemed in control of the game. However, the Tigers outscored North Clayton 12-9 in the second quarter as they trailed 28-21 at the intermission.
The Eagles lead by as many as 10 points in the second half, but Mundy's Mill kept climbing back in the game. Tigers guard Jordan Spann kept the team in the game with a big second half.
After going scoreless through the first two quarters, the junior point guard finished with a team-high 10 points. He hit a couple 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to keep the Tigers in the game.
"We got careless there in the fourth quarter," Troup said. "We should have been up by more, but were moving a lot of players in the game. We played everybody tonight."
Troup said he is still looking for the right rotation after graduation to a big chunk of his players from last season. Two of his starters came off the bench after missing practices with injuries.
Football players Dennis Johnson and Amarlo Herrera got starts instead of Roman Woodburn (oral surgery) and Marcus Palmer (stitches).
"Dennis and Amarlo two of our better defensive players," Troup said. "They stepped up and played well. We had more of a defensive look out on the floor. We are still finding our rotation. This is essentially a brand new team. We had eight seniors last season and they had been with me for about three years."
North Clayton girls 61, Mundy's Mill 51: The Lady Eagles improved to 2-0 under first-year coach Shaka Owens with the Region 4-AAAA win.
Senior Miranda Cantrell had 15 points and 18 rebounds to help pace the Eagles.
Owens said he was pleased with the win, but wasn't happy about the team committing 31 turnovers.
"It is a nice start for us," Owens said. "This was our first test of the season. They tested our defense. We got a good effort from our bench. The turnovers killed us."