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North Clayton advances to final four by routing Alcovy

Photo by Jerry Jackson: North Clayton forward Devin Lewis (23) got going in the fourth quarter, pouring in seven points during an 18-7 run. Lewis finished with 13.

Photo by Jerry Jackson: North Clayton forward Devin Lewis (23) got going in the fourth quarter, pouring in seven points during an 18-7 run. Lewis finished with 13.

FORT VALLEY — If advancing through the Class AAAA boys basketball tournament is supposed to be harder than this, somebody should send a memo to North Clayton. The Eagles are making things look ridiculously easy.

Add Alcovy to the Eagles' list of double-digit-margin postseason victims after Marcus Hunt scored 34 points Friday to lead North Clayton to an 84-62 rout in a quarterfinal at Fort Valley State University. With their sixth consecutive victory, the Eagles ensured that two Clayton County teams will reach the Class AAAA final four at The Arena at Gwinnett Center next week, with either Jonesboro or Lovejoy, combatants in a late quarterfinal here Friday, being the other. 

North Clayton (20-10) will meet Southwest DeKalb (20-7) in the semifinals next Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., the Eagles' first trip this deep in the playoffs since a 23-10 campaign in the 2006-07 season ended in the semifinals. 

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Photo by Jerry Jackson: North Clayton guard Dionte Agard drives by an Alcovy defender in the Eagles' 84-62 win Friday in the Class AAAA quarterfinals at Fort Valley State.

The Eagles hit Alcovy (27-4) in the mouth midway through the first quarter, and kept pounding away. Hunt scored 14 points in the first quarter after telling his teammates that "I owed them one. Wednesday night I didn't start out too well." 

Few North Clayton fans will care much about the starts if the finishes keep coming the way they have been in three state-tournament games. The Eagles have beaten Dutchtown by 21, Ware County by 16 and now Alcovy -- a team that entered the arena on an 18-game winning streak -- by 22. 

"We're playing with a type of swagger," Hunt said. 

Swagger, given birth during the Eagles' run to the Region 4-AAAA championship, has many names at North Clayton. Here's how Eagles coach Martisse Troup, hoarse voice and all, defined it: "Defense, rebounding, making free throws. It's just natural." 

In between a rash of offensive fouls by both teams, the Eagles put together a 19-4 run that stretched from the middle of the first quarter into the early part of the second. That turned an 8-7 Alcovy lead -- its last -- into a 26-12 Eagles advantage. 

Hunt , the 6-foot-6 Georgia Tech signee, had 20 points in the first half, which ended with North Clayton leading 42-26. The Tigers knew they wanted to keep him under control. They just couldn't. 

"I have to take my hat off to him," Alcovy coach Eugene Brown said. "He's as advertised." 

The closest the Tigers got in the second half was nine points. 

Despite Alcovy's attempts to get back in the game, North Clayton never let up. The Eagles put their foot on the gas early in the fourth quarter, turning a 15-point advantage into a 26-point bulge as Devin Lewis, quiet offensively most of the game, started making his presence felt. Lewis had seven points during an 18-7 run to begin the fourth quarter, and the Eagles led 75-49. Lewis finished with 13. 

Devon Edwards led Alcovy with 15 points before fouling out with 30.8 seconds to play. 

"It feels good, since our last visit was in 2007," Hunt said. "We won the region, so this is the next big step." 

Troup said the Eagles' formula won't change. 

"We're playing smart, playing hard together," the coach said. "And we're playing good defense.