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Clayton State women move on to Final Four

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

From Staff Reports

It's on to the NCAA Division II "Final Four" for the Clayton State Laker women's basketball team.

With four players scoring in double-figures, the No. 2-ranked Lakers rolled to an impressive 84-61 victory over No. 15-ranked Bentley in the NCAA Division II Quarterfinals on Tuesday at the St. Joseph Civic Arena.

Clayton State improves to 33-1 overall and will meet Shaw in the NCAA Division II Semifinals on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the St. Joseph Civic Arena.

The game will be televised live on ESPNU. Bentley finished its season 29-4.

This will be the second time in program history that Clayton State has advanced to the NCAA Division II "Final Four" in women's basketball. Head coach Dennis Cox's Lakers also made the "Final Four" in 2007.

Clayton State got off to a slow start, trailing by as many as six points early before leading 29-18 with 5:19 remaining on a lay-up by Teshymia Tillman. But Bentley closed out the half on a 13-4 run and cut the Laker lead to 33-31 at halftime.

However, it was all Lakers in the second half. Clayton State opened the half out-scoring Bentley 23-5 in the first seven minutes of the half. A lay-up by Shacamra Jackson off an offensive rebound gave the Lakers an 11-point lead with 17:47 remaining. That was followed by a driving lay-up by Drameka Griggs to give Clayton State a 46-33 lead at the 16:16 mark.

Tillman and Griggs drained back-to-back 3-point baskets, increasing the Laker lead to 19 points. Griggs then converted a transition lay-up off a steal, and Clayton State had a commanding 57-36 lead at the 12:49 mark.

Bentley never got closer than 17 points from that moment on. Tillman drained another 3-point basket to increase the Clayton State lead to 64-41 with 9:05 remaining. Breanna Fort followed with a lay-up on baseline to make the Laker lead 73-48 at the 6:07 mark.

In the second half alone, Clayton State shot 53 percent from the field, including 8-for-10 (80) percent from 3-point range, and 9-for-10 from the free throw line.

Tillman paced the Lakers with 22 points. In addition, she became the first player in Clayton State women's basketball history to score 500 or more points in two straight seasons. Fort and Tanisha Woodard each scored 14 points, while Griggs scored 13 points off the bench. Woodard also recorded seven steals as the Clayton State press wore down Bentley in the second half.

For Bentley, Courtney Finn scored 15 points, followed by Kim Brennan with 14 points, Jacqui Brugliera scored 12 points and Lauren Battista added 10 points.