By Derrick Mahone
North Clayton's first game in 10 days sort of resembled the last game it played before inclement weather forced the cancellation of three games.
The Lady Eagles built a big lead only to see it evaporate into a loss. Tuesday's 47-43 loss at Mundy's Mill was probably more crushing than its two-point loss to Drew on Jan. 8.
For starters, it was a Region 4-AAAA contest.
"We choked," North Clayton coach Shaka Owens explained moments after the loss. "We threw the ball and the game away. It was a disappointing loss."
North Clayton was up 41-27 with six minutes remaining in the contest before Lady Tigers guard Briana McQueen and her teammates made a dramatic comeback.
Some of the Lady Eagles problems were self-inflicted as they committed eight fourth-quarter turnovers and two in the last two minutes. McQueen had only four points during the first three quarters as she battled foul trouble for most of the game.
However, she poured in 10 fourth-quarter points, including four in the final 20 seconds to help with the win.
"We stayed together as a team and got this win," McQueen said. "I had to be a leader.
We worked as a team."
The Lady Tigers outscored North Clayton 18-2 in the last five minutes of the game for the win.
"This team played with a lot of character and heart in the fourth quarter," Mundy's Mill coach Julius Omotayo said.
Mundy's Mill sophomore guard Moneshia Dyer hit a jumper with six minutes remaining to cut the lead to 41-27 as Omotayo called a time out.
"I told them to play good defense because we were in a six possession game," he said. "At that time, I told them that we were going straight man-to-man defense. This is where their passion for the game showed. They laid it on the line out there in the fourth quarter."
McQueen hit a jumper with 3:46 remaining to bring the Lady Tigers to within 41-40. However, on North Clayton's next possession, she picked up her fourth foul.
A missed shot by North Clayton gave the Lady Tigers the ball back. Anikee Combee made one of two free throws to tie the game at 41-41 with 2:31 remaining.
Mundy's Mill took its first lead of the game when Kristina Bridges made a layup with 44 seconds remaining for a 43-41 lead. It would be short-lived as Ariele Thomas made a shot with 36 seconds remaining to tie the game again at 43-43.
From there, it was all McQueen and Mundy's Mill.
McQueen made four free throws in the last 20 seconds to close out the scoring to give the Lady Tigers the win.
"This was a big win, because we beat a top team," Omotayo said. "Our girls are learning how to win as a team.
We have a lot of players that didn't play a lot last season, so they have new roles this season. We are trying to learn to play on a high level."
The win avenged an earlier loss to North Clayton as the team's split their season series. Mundy's Mill improved to 9-3 overall and 6-2 in the region as they snapped a two-game losing streak.
The Lady Tigers had won eight straight after the season opening loss to North Clayton in the season opener.
"We could have easily gave up tonight," Omotayo said. "This was definitely a significant win."
North Clayton (boys) 68, Mundy's Mill 54: Michael Johnson had 14 points to lead three other Eagles scorers in double figures for the win. Leading scorer Marcus Hunt finished with 13 points and Stefan Bradley and Lexus Hill added 12 points each. The Eagles improved to 10-5 overall and 6-3 in the region as they won their third straight game.
Mundy's Mill dropped to 9-6 and 3-5 as its four-game winning streak was snapped. North Clayton won both games this season.