Photo by Heather Middleton
By Derrick Mahone
North Clayton coach Martisse Troup acknowledged that his entire team contributed to the Eagles 55-47 win over Forest Park in the Region 4-AAAA tournament quarterfinals, but it was junior Marcus Hunt who stood out the most in the closing minutes.
Hunt, a 6-foot-5 guard/forward, made a pair of steals and connected on three of four free throws in the final two minutes as the Eagles advance to tonight's semifinals against top-seeded Lovejoy. "His game is complete," Troup said. "Everybody stepped up and played well. They all played their role out there. We limited our turnovers in the last two and half minutes, and that was the reason for the win."
And so was Hunt, who played with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Hunt admitted to being disappointed in not being voted region player of the year after averaging 25 points this season.
"I just kept pushing myself out there," said Hunt, who finished with 27 points. "That sort of motivated me to push extra hard. Our main focus was to get back to state. I'm happy we are going back, but we want more. Everybody is hungry for more."
The Eagles (15-11) broke a five-game losing streak, including two losses in the last four games against Lovejoy.
North Clayton players say they will be ready for their third matchup against the Wildcats, who won the regular-season region championship.
Tip-off is at 8:30 p.m. at Mundy's Mill High.
"Our defense wasn't up to par the last time we played," Eagles senior guard Lexus Hill said. "I think we have fixed that. We are looking forward to the game."
Forest Park (12-13) jumped to an 8-0 lead before Hunt scored a pair of baskets to get the team into the game. The Eagles outscored Forest Park 11-2 to close the game.
"We weren't ready to go home," North Clayton senior forward Michael Johnson said. "We were hungry and determined to get back to state. Marcus really played with a lot of heart out there. In fact, our entire team stepped up."
North Clayton will need another big effort tonight against Lovejoy, which is coming off a seven-day layoff. The Wildcats haven't played since defeating North Clayton on Feb. 11.
This was North Clayton's first game since last Saturday, when it lost to Riverdale. Troup said that he wasn't concern about his team having a long layoff, because the team had some "good, productive" practices during the week leading up to Thursday's game.
"Our kids were real focused at practice," Troup said. "This was a big game. I think our kids played well."
Banneker boys 58, Riverdale 50: Ryan Green and Sherrod Wade scored 13 points apiece as the Trojans advanced to the semifinals of the region tournament.
The Trojans (14-13) were the No. 6 coming into the tournament and they knocked off Riverdale (16-10), the No. 3 seed. Riverdale was led by Julian Butler, who had a game-high 17 points.
Jonesboro boys 64, Morrow 57: James White scored 17 points and Rasham Suarez added 16 points as the second-seeded Cardinals advanced to the semifinals where they'll play Banneker at 5:30 p.m.
Alejandro Benefield added 10 points for Jonesboro (23-3).
Julito Hutchinson led Morrow (12-13) with 24 points, James Parsons scored 22 points and Dante Ottley added 10 points.