By Doug Gorman
The Clayton State Lakers are starting to look a lot like the team that was predicted to finish second and maybe even challenge for the Peach Belt Conference crown when preseason predictions were made public.
After losing three games in a row in December, the Lakers are starting to show signs of coming to life. Wednesday night in their last non-conference game of the season, the Lakers extended their winning streak to four games in a row with an 80-67 victory over visiting West Virginia Tech.
Clayton State coach Gordon Gibbons likes the way his team has played during the winning streak.
"Our victory against Southern Poly (to start the streak) and our team meetings really turned this thing around. We have played four really good basketball games. This is probably the one of the four that we didn't' play as well, but we are a different basketball team than what we were before. We are explosive, and we are a very good executing team."
The win comes on the heels of beating No.-12-ranked Rollins 62-60 in the finals of the Winter Park Rotary Tournament.
"They (Rollins) are the best team in their region, and they are a top-10 team, and they had won their tournament seven of eight years, but we were focused and we were prepared for them, and we really shut down a good Rollins team."
With Wednesday's victory, Clayton State improved its record to 8-4. West Virginia Tech dropped to 10-5.
Clayton State built a 47-36 lead at the end of the first half and then only outscored West Virginia Tech 33-31 in the second half to get the victory.
The Lakers shot 44.6 percent from the field for the game and held their guest to just 40 percent from the field. The Lakers also used some stout defense, forcing West Virginia Tech into 18 turnovers.
Nine different players scored for the Lakers as the team spread the offensive wealth. Robert Murry was one of four players to finish the game in double figures for the Lakers, finishing the contest with a game-high 19 points. Timothy Downs tossed in 16, Jaquas Dobbs added 13 and Brandon Roberts tossed in 10.
The Golden Bears' Robby Marshall led his team with 16 points. Darrly Slack finished with 15 and Rickey Young, who played locally at Riverdale, knocked down 13.
West Virginia Tech made a couple of second-half runs against the Lakers, using some long-range 3-point bombs to keep the game close.
The Golden Bears converted six treys in the final 20 minutes.
With 6:49 left in the contest, Zack Thomsen hit on back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the Lakers' lead to 67-62, but the Lakers threw the knockout punch from there when Murry converted his own 3-point shot.
His basket sparked a 13-5 run down the stretch.
Baskets by Dobbs and Morrow graduate Eric Wilson pushed the Lakers lead back to double digits for good,
Clayton State gets back into conference action on Saturday when it plays host to Georgia College in a men and women's doubleheader.
The women tip off at 5:30, followed by the men at 7:30.