Photo by Derrick Mahone
North Clayton's win over Ware County allowed Eagles coach Martisse Troup to defeat a team coached by his cousin.
Family went toe-to-toe on Wednesday night and it was North Clayton that came out on top as the Eagles downed visiting Ware County 63-47 in the second round of the Class AAAA tournament.
The victory improves North Clayton to 19-10 overall, and the Eagles have now won five straight games. North Clayton advances to the quarterfinals for the first time in two seasons. North Clayton will battle former Region 4-AAAA rival Alcovy on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Fort Valley State.
It also gave Eagles coach Martisse Troup a victory over his cousin, Ware County head coach Tre Hill.
“Someone in the family had to win tonight,” Troup said. “This feels good and we are really peaking at the right time. Our team defense and free-throw shooting has improved, and I am very happy for this team.”
North Clayton used its defense to suffocate Ware County, especially after the first quarter. The Gators had trimmed a nine-point Eagle lead to two with some key transition points late in the first quarter, but managed only two points for the better part of six minutes in the second quarter.
North Clayton, meanwhile, used a 9-0 run to stretch its lead to 12 points. Senior forward Marcus Hunt scored twice in transition, and a 3-point play by Darius Johnson gave the Eagles a 29-17 lead with 3:20 remaining. With a nine-point lead at halftime, North Clayton pulled away by opening the third quarter on an 8-1 run.
Justin Varner connected on a 3-point basket, and then his layup gave the Eagles a 38-21 lead with 5:57 remaining. Hunt scored on a breakaway dunk with 3:19 remaining, but Ware County trimmed the lead to 40-29 at the end of the third quarter on a put-back by Cameron Wilkins. That, however, was as close as the Gators would get.
North Clayton opened the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run and never looked back. Hunt recorded a three-point play and junior forward Devin Lewis connected on four free throws. Another three-point play by Hunt at the 3:26 mark pushed the Eagle lead to 52-33. North Clayton’s largest lead of the game was 21 points. A 3-point basket by freshman Malik Young gave the Eagles a 63-42 lead with 41 seconds remaining.
“We kind of wore them down with some good defense, and our seniors really stepped up well tonight,” Troup said. “We have to keep playing good team defense to have a chance.”
Hunt, a Georgia Tech signee, paced North Clayton with 21 points, followed by Lewis with 16 points. Senior forward Quintin Edwards paced Ware County with 23 points.