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Former coach inspires North Clayton in tournament win

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Derrick Mahone

dmahone@news-daily.com

When former North Clayton coach Kimleon Turner went into the Lady Eagles' locker room during halftime, the players knew it wasn't going to be a pretty scene.

Playing sluggish for the first two quarters of its

Region 4-AAAA quarterfinals game, Turner decided to deliver what North Clayton players called some words of encouragement.

What did he say?

"It is not printable," North Clayton guard Arielle Thomas grinned.

Whatever Turner said seemed to have worked as the Lady Eagles defeated Jonesboro 47-37 to earn a trip to the state playoffs for the second straight season. North Clayton will take on Mundy's Mill Friday in the region tournament semifinals.

"Man, when coach Turner came in there at halftime, it brought back memories," said Miranda Cantrell, who led the Lady Eagles with 23 points and 17 rebounds. "He just reminded us that we need to play hard and together."

North Clayton led 15-12 at the intermission, but broke the game open in the third by outscoring Jonesboro 18-9 in the quarter. Part of the reason for North Clayton's sluggish play was that Cantrell, a Jacksonville State signee, was in foul trouble. Despite picking up two quick fouls to start the game, Cantrell had eight first half points.

Cantrell, the region player of the year, scored 15 in the second half to help lead the team to victory.

"Miranda came up with big shots when we needed it," Lady Eagles coach Shaka Owens said. "We were going to ride her to victory."

Said Thomas: "She was our go-to player out there. She showed why she is the player of the year. She stepped up when we needed her and played well."

With the win, North Clayton improved to 16-3 as they defeated Jonesboro three times this season. It is the second straight season that the Lady Cardinals (13-14) since reaching the Class AAAA semifinals in 2009.

However, the Lady Cardinals are expected to be a contender next season since they did not have any seniors on this season's squad. T

Their top player is sophomore Briana Benson, a sophomore who was named first-team all-region by the coaches.

Lovejoy 55, Tri-Cities 50 OT: Trailing the entire game, Kim Dawkins made a layup with 55 seconds remaining regulation to send the game into overtime. The Lady Wildcats took their first lead of the game on a free throw from Yamaya Crawford as they went on to earn a state playoff berth.

Lovejoy will take on top-seed Forest Park Friday in a region semifinals game at Lovejoy. This is the Lady Wildcats first state playoff berth since the 2006-07 season.

"I felt we were real sluggish in the first half, but as bad as we played we were still in the game," Lovejoy coach Aaron Carter said. "We were able to pick up our confidence, and that is why we won."

Khalae Holt led the Lady Wildcats with 13 points and Keyasha Palmer had 10 points.

Mundy's Mill 60, Riverdale 54: The Lady Tigers were perfect on six free throw attempts in the last 28 seconds to seal the win and earn a state playoff berth.

Brianna McQueen, who finished with 15 points, was four of four on free throw attempts while Kristina Bridges made two free throws in the closing seconds. Bridges and Moneisha Dyer each had 11 points for

Mundy's Mill (19-5), which will take on North Clayton in Friday's semifinals.

Riverdale freshman Keimairra Haylock had 19 points and sophomore Deanna Turner had 15 as the Lady Raiders finished the season with an 11-16 record.