Photo by Dennis Thomas
Clayton State forward Kayla Mobley tries to drive past a Young Harris defender in the Lakers’ home victory on Thursday evening during a Peach Belt Conference game.
MORROW — Clayton State’s quest for a perfect season remains intact.
The nation’s No. 3 team, according to the USA Today Sports/ESPN NCAA Division II Top 25 Coaches Poll, survived a bit of a first-half scare from the Young Harris Mountain Lions before pulling away for an 85-61 victory in Peach Belt Conference action Thursday night.
Kayla Mobley fueled the Lady Lakers — who had five players in double figures — with 15 points and Keona Dixon added 14 while making 4-of-10 from behind the arc to help Clayton State improve to 17-0 overall and 10-0 in conference play.
Young Harris (10-6, 4-5) looked to make a game of it early as Peach Belt scoring leader Ladondra Johnson scored the Mountain Lions’ first eight points of the game. The Lady Lions actually grabbed first half leads of 22-21 and 27-26 using hot shooting and tenacity on the glass which gave them a 14-10 rebounding edge before Clayton State found its groove.
Mobley scored 11 of the Lakers’ last 18 points in the 7:42 of the first half which set the Lakers on a 17-4 run that turned that 27-26 deficit into a 43-31 halftime advantage.
From there, coach Dennis Cox’s Lakers turned up the defensive pressure which literally shut down Johnson, the conference’s leading scorer.
Johnson — who had 15 first half points — was held scoreless the entire second half. She sat toward the end of the first half with her third foul which could have helped to cool her off.
Nevertheless, Cox said stopping Johnson was priority No. 1 for his Lakers. And freshman guard Kayla Pryce was the one who drew the unenviable task of making that happen.
“I told my girls if we’re going to win this game, we were going to have to do a job on number 30,” Cox said. “I told Kayla ‘I hate to put it all on you to do it,’ but she accepted the challenge and shut her down.”
The Lakers have had unprecedented success under coach Cox, including four Sweet Sixteen appearances, two Final Fours and a 2011 National Championship.
After allowing the Mountain Lions to shoot 50 percent from the field, Clayton State’s full court press forced Young Harris into 14 of its 20 turnovers in the second half as the Lions cooled off to the tune of 33 percent shooting the rest of the way.
Clayton State will travel to North Georgia Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. game against the third place team in the West Division.