Photo by Derrick Mahone
Dutchtown forward Donavahn Jones (left) attempts to guard Marcus Hunt of North Clayton on Friday when the two teams played in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs. Hunt had 27 points to lead the Eagles to the victory with Jones chipping in 14 points.
North Clayton forward Marcus Hunt can remember a time when defense didn’t exactly pique the Eagles’ interest.
But after winning their first region title in 19 years, the Eagles now see its value. Unfortunately for Dutchtown on Friday, it saw how well the Eagles can play it.
Led by a full-court pressure defense, North Clayton defeated the visiting Region 3-AAAA No. 4-seeded team 79-58 in the first round of the playoffs.
“We realized that defense is what wins championships; everyone on the team loves to play defense,” said Hunt, who finished with a game-high 27 points. “Everyday in practice, we are ready to play defense. It’s defense, defense and more of it in practice.”
The Eagles (18-10) jumped to a quick 13-0 lead in the first 2 1/2 minutes of the contest, which forced Dutchtown to burn two early timeouts. Dutchtown was having trouble getting the ball across midcourt against the Eagles’ pressure defense.
Dutchtown would eventually settle down in the opening quarter as it trailed 20-15 to start the second. However, North Clayton picked back up the defensive intensity and took a 42-26 lead into halftime.
“All teams are going to make a run,” Hunt said. “We were able to regain a big lead because of our defense. We kept our heads on straight, and that is why we got the win.”
Devin Lewis finished with 13 points and Stafan Bradley added 11 for the Eagles, who hosted their first playoff game under coach Martisse Troup.
North Clayton scored at least 20 points in all but one quarter.
Dutchtown got 21 points from Montrez Metts and Donovahn Jones added 14. The Bulldogs end their season with a 15-15 record under first-year coach Allen Atkins.
“I’m proud of the way my guys fought all game,” Atkins said. “No one expected us to be still playing at this point in the season. It was a battle all game, and my guys played with a lot of heart and character. They (North Clayton) have a great team, and they will go far in the playoffs.”
Troup said that Friday’s performance was an extension of a good week of practice.
“There was a lot of carryover,” Troup said. “We have been playing good defense. They know what it takes to win, and at the end of the day it’s about defense.”