By Derrick Mahone
With Tri-Cities applying several junk defenses to Eagles standout forward Marcus Hunt, the coaching staff needed other players to step up and score.
North Clayton got some big crunch time scoring from Lexus Hill, Michael Johnson and Stefan Bradley took turns helping the Eagles mount a comeback win. Johnson finished the game with a team-high
19 points while Hill had eight and Bradley added 12 points.
I told the team before the game that we would need some help," said Hunt, who finished with 18 points. "I'm basically a decoy out there since teams are double and triple teaming me. We have to play strong as a team. We talked throughout the game."
Tri-Cities, which defeated North Clayton in the season opener in November, led throughout the contest. It wasn't until Johnson made a follow-up lay-up to tie the score at 48-48 with 3:06 remaining. He missed a foul shot on the possession that would have given the Eagles the lead.
However, on their ensuing possession, the Bulldogs turned the ball over. Hill made a pair of free throws for a 50-48 lead with 2:14 remaining.
A 3-pointer by Bradley extended the lead to 53-48 with 1:29 remaining.
"We just decided to play in the second half," Troup said. "Defense has to be our thing this season. The second half was more intense."
The win improves North Clayton, which is in third place in the Region 4-AAAA standings, to 13-6 overall and 9-4 in the region as Tri-Cities has now lost seven in a row to fall to 6-13 and 5-8.
Despite the double and triple teams, Hunt was able to score consistently throughout the game.
But Troup was impressed to see that his teammates were able to carry some of the scoring load.
"We can't just depend on Marcus every night," Troup said. "Everybody has a role. When went get double figures scoring from Lexus and Michael, we usually win the game. It doesn't really matter about Marcus because he is going to get his points."
Said Johnson: "We just have to keep attacking. I couldn't hit my free throws like I wanted to, but I was trying to take it to the basket and get an and-one."
North Clayton fell behind 33-29 at the intermission and was outscored 11-5 in the third quarter as the Bulldogs took a 44-34 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Eagles then went on 12-4 run to draw to 48-46 on a 3-pointer by Bradley, a sophomore guard.
"We were getting outhustled in the first half," Johnson said. "It is going to be very important that we all realize our job and do it the remaining of the season. We have to take advantage of all our opportunities."
North Clayton (girls) 39, Tri-Cities 34: Miranda Cantrell scored a game-high 13 points and teammate Destiny Tejada added 10 in the Region 4-AAAA win. The Lady Eagles swept the regular season series against the East Point school.
Tri-Cities was led by Dominique Weatherby, who finished with 10 points.
North Clayton trailed 33-29 entering the final period, but outscored the Lady Bulldogs 10-1 for the come-from-behind win. The Lady Eagles improved to 12-3 overall and 9-2 in the region as Tri-Cities drops to 10-9 and 8-5.