By Derrick Mahone
At the beginning of the season, Stockbridge looked as if it would cruise to the Region 4-AAAA championship by winning 11 of its first 13 games.
Then, the Tigers hit a slump while ending the season losing nine of its last 12 regular season games. All that is in the past as the Tigers have won two straight region tournament games at Mount Zion to put themselves into tonight's championship game.
Chris Davis scored 30 points and Dante Campbell added 25 to lead the Tigers to a 96-80 victory over No. 4-ranked North Clayton Friday in the region semifinals. North Clayton entered the tournament as the region's top seed after winning its last 13 games.
Stockbridge will meet county rival Dutchtown in the championship game tonight a 7:30. Regardless of the outcome, both teams will get to host first round state playoff games next week.
Tigers coach Duane Kelley praised his team for bouncing back from a late season slump to position themselves into the region championship game.
"This team handled adversity well," Kelley said. "We felt that we could beat this team. We know now that we at least get to host a playoff game, but we are not done yet. We want a region championship."
Stockbridge extended its 40-39 halftime lead by outscoring the Eagles 2815 in the third quarter. North Clayton was never really able to overcome a 14-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
"You got to give them credit, they fought the entire game," Kelley said. "They are a top 10 team in the state, but we proved that we can play with anybody. I felt tonight was just our night."
North Clayton got 21 points from sophomore Marcus Hunt while seniors Jimmy Williams added 19 and Zach Bradley, a Clayton State signee, had 18 points.
"Losing this game really hurts in the heart," Hunt said. "We can still win state and accomplish that goal that we set at the beginning of the season. We just can't let up."
North Clayton will play Ola today at 4:30 p.m. in the third place game. The Eagles won both contest between the teams this season.
This was the North Clayton's first game in 10 days, and the looked alittle rusty.
"Our defense came out real slow," Eagles forward Clarence Jackson said. "We didn't have enough fire like they did."
Dutchtown (girls) 53, North Clayton 50: The Bulldogs overcame a third quarter deficit to defeat North Clayton for the third time this season. Dutchtown will meet Forest Park tonight at 6 for the region championship.
The teams split in the regular season with each winning on the road.
This was Dutchtown's first game in 10 days while North Clayton was playing its second consecutive region tournament game. The Bulldogs overcame a 40-32 deficit entering the final quarter to win its 12th straight game.
Dutchtown hasn't loss since a 74-55 loss to Forest Park on Jan. 12.
Senior Brittany Strickland scored 18 points and Abria Trice added 11 points in the win over North Clayton, which will play Alcovy in the third place game.
Down 48-46, Trice hit a layup with to tie the game at 48-48 with 2:24 remaining. Jessica Foster made one of two free throws to give the Bulldogs a 49-48 lead with 2:01 remaining, and they would not trail again.
"They jumped out on us early," Dutchtown coach Angela Williams said. "I have to give it to North Clayton because they fought to the end. We will have to come ready to play against Forest Park."