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No. 2-ranked Clayton State wins 79-54

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

From Staff Reports

Top-seeded and No. 2-ranked Clayton State University used a dominating first half to pace the Lakers to a 79-54 quarterfinal victory over eighth-seeded Francis Marion Friday evening in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional women's basketball tournament in the Athletics and Fitness Center.

Clayton State, which improves to 30-1 on the season, will face the winner of fourth-seeded Georgia College and fifth-seeded Barton at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The championship is set for 7 p.m., Monday. The Southeast Regional champion will advance to the Elite Eight in St. Louis, Mo., March 22-23 and 25.

It marks the first ever 30-victory season for Clayton State, and the Lakers are just the fourth team in Peach Belt Conference history to reach that achievement. Francis Marion ends the season at 18-10.

The Lakers placed five players in double figures led by Teshymia Tillman's 15 points. Tillman connected on 7-of-10 floor shots, including 1-of-3 threes. Latonda Bruce and Drameka Griggs added 12 points each, while Brittany Hall and Kayla Mobley had 10 each. Breanna Fort led Clayton State in rebounds with seven.

Clayton State out-rebounded FMU, 35-30, and forced the Patriots into 23 turnovers.

Francis Marion was led by Shannon Singleton-Bates' game-high 20 points and six rebounds. Bates connected on 9-of-20 field goals and 2-of-3 free throws. Courtney Mealing added 13 points.

The Lady Lakers kicked the game off with a 7-0 run when Tillman started with a three, Shacamra Jackson stole the ball and drove in for a layup and Fort nailed a jumper.

The Lady Patriots finally got on the scoreboard at 17:22 when Mealing hit a jumper. FMU trimmed the lead to 9-6 at 15:16 after a Singleton-Bates grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back.

Clayton State answered with a Bruce three to make it 12-6 at 15:08 and Hall followed soon thereafter with another three to give the Lakers a 15-8 lead.

Griggs' three-point basket with 8:30 left in the half gave Clayton State its first double-figure lead at 24-14.

The Lady Lakers followed with a 7-2 run on a Jackson free throw, a Bruce put-back, Tanisha Woodards' lay-up and another Bruce lay-up off her own steal to go up 31-16 with 3:53 remaining.

FMU retaliated with a pair of Singleton-Bates baskets to trim the margin to 31-20 at 3:26, but the Lakers finished the half with six unanswered points and a 40-20 lead.

Clayton State's Hall started the second half with a three at 19:36 and the Lakers built up a 28-point lead, its' largest of the game, at 55-27 on a Mobley lay-up with 14:42 left.

Midway through the game FMU rallied to cut the lead to 18 points at 59-41 with 8:11 left on a Brittany Christian three, but Clayton State put an end to the run with back-to-back Tillman baskets.

Clayton State connected on 31-of-58 field goals for 53.4 percent, including 8-of-23 threes for 34.8 percent. The Lakers were 9-of-13 from the foul line for 69.2 percent.

FMU made 23-of-56 floor shots for 41.1 percent, including 2-of-12 threes for 16.7 percent. The Patriots were 6-of-12 from the free throw line for 50 percent.