By Derrick Mahone
North Clayton has been among the hottest teams in Region 4-AAAA lately with a five-game winning streak.
That is a big contrast from when the year begun.
A few weeks ago, the Eagles didn't appear to have a chance at reaching the Class AAAA playoffs.
However, a five-game winning streak has renewed North Clayton confidence heading into the final four games of the regular season. The Eagles have a 10-10 overall record and a 6-7 mark in the region. Heading into tonight's 6 p.m. game against Dutchtown, North Clayton is currently in second place in the region.
"Our confidence is very high right now," North Clayton junior center Miranda Cantrell said. "We believe we can win it all. Winning those four games tells us that if we can play all four quarters, and not just three quarters, that we can win every game."
The Eagles started the new year with a 60-56 loss at Dutchtown to start them on a five-game losing skid. Since then, the Eagles have been on a roll with five straight wins.
However, those wins have come against Jonesboro, Riverdale, Mount Zion, Ola and Stockbridge, teams with a combined 32-70 record.
Riverdale, a Class AAAAA school, is the only team the Eagles have beaten with a winning record.
"We definitely need to step in these last few games to show how much we have improved," senior guard Quatisha Wright said.
North Clayton coach Kimleon Turner says tonight's match-up against second-place Dutchtown is just another game on the schedule. The veteran coach refused to put any added emphasis on the game.
"It's another regular season game," he said. "As I said earlier, this team would start to jell in January. At this point in the season, I don't think anybody wants to play North Clayton. We have had some three and four point losses. I think those loses have made us a better team."
North Clayton hasn't won five games in a row since starting the 2007-08 season with seven straight wins. Turner points to the team's defense as a key for its winning streak. During the streak, the Eagles have limited its opponents to only 38 points per game.
The coach also points to the addition of Destiny Tejada, a junior point guard. Tejada missed the first part of the season for academic reason. Her addition to the team has helped senior guard Essence Chenualt, who also plays the point guard position.
In the Eagles' 52-34 win over Stockbridge Saturday, Chenault had 26 points and seven assists.
"Destiny has taken a lot of pressure off of Essence," Turner said. "With Destiny, it has given Essence the opportunity to run the team more and help us with scoring."
While Eagles would like to improve their position in the standings, Turner said being a fourth seed would not be all that bad.
"We are sort of where we want to be," he said. "We can't get the No. 1 or two or three spot. I think we are in good position for the tournament. We definitely don't want to lose any ground."