By Derrick Mahone
Playing its second game in as many nights, Dutchtown was supposed to be the team that committed the turnovers and lacked the hustle.
But with 5:15 remaining in the fourth quarter, North Clayton coach Kimleon Turner shouted to his team, "they're outhustling you" with his Eagles trailing by four points.
Dutchtown was able to weather North Clayton's fourth-quarter comeback attempt to win 67-63 Tuesday as the Bulldogs won their eightth straight game. With the win, Dutchtown improved to 19-2 overall and 13-1 in Region 4-AAAA to remain in second place.
The Bulldogs were coming off a 55-52 win at Alcovy Monday night, in a game that had been postponed last month because of inclement weather.
"I'm definitely pleased with the win, but I thought we might have gotten a little fatigued in the fourth quarter," Dutchtown coach Angela Williams said. "We played a hard fought game against Alcovy Monday, but we came in here ready to play. I wasn't too concern about them being tired because a lot of our players play AAU, and they play three or four games in a day."
Dutchtown had a seven-point lead most of the game, but North Clayton made a fourth quarter rally as the game was tied four times in the quarter. Bulldogs guard Aisha Atwater made one of two free throws with four minutes remaining to give Dutchtown the lead for good at 54-53.
North Clayton fell to 10-11 and 6-8 in the region as their five-game winning streak was snapped. The Eagles begin the new year with a 60-56 loss at Dutchtown that sent them on a five-game losing streak.
"They (North Clayton) definitely looked a lot better this half of the season," Williams said. "I will not be surprised if you saw them in the state playoffs."
Through the first two quarters, Dutchtown committed only four turnovers, but got sloppy with the ball in the final two. The Bulldogs had 14 second-half turnovers after being a 46-38 halftime lead.
"My challenge to the team has been four turnovers for the entire game," Williams said. "We have yet to do that. It seems we have increased that. I have ran my guards to death in practice to try and make that point. If we reduce those turnovers, we will start to blow people out."
Dutchtown players said that fatigue wasn't the problem, but rather a lack of focus.
"It was basically a lack of concentration," said senior point guard Brittney Strickland, who finished with 16 points. "We made some mistakes in trying to rush things."
In a non-region win against Sandy Creek Saturday, Strickland scored her 1,000th career point. Last November, she signed a scholarship to play at Alabama A&M.
The Bulldogs got the majority of their scoring from Abria Trice, who had 18 points. She scored at least one basket in every quarter. The senior is playing on signing a scholarship with Prairie View A&M during the spring signing period in April.
"Abria is my most important player on the floor," Williams said. "She can play all five position and she rarely comes out the game. If she does, it is only for about a minute."
North Clayton got a game-high 23 points from junior Destiny Tejada while Ariele Thomas had 16 points. Essence Chenualt finished with 12 points.
"I knew I had to step up, in fact the entire team stepped up and played well," Trice said.
North Clayton (boys) 78, Dutchtown 66: Eagles coach Martisse Troup was able to rest his starters in the fourth quarter in the team's ninth straight win of the season. Dutchtown was the last team to defeat North Clayton with a 65-61 win on Jan. 5.
The Eagles improved to 20-2 overall and 12-2 in the region while Dutchtown dropped to 10-11 and 7-8. This was North Clayton's first 20-win season since the 2006-07 season when it reached the Class AAAA final four.
North Clayton was led by Zach Bradley, who had a game-high 18 points. Antwuan Murphy was the only other Eagle player in double figures with 11 points.
Avery Lynch had 13 points to lead the Bulldogs.