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Clayton State guarded against letdown

Special Photo
Clayton State forward Shannon Smith will help lead the top-ranked Lakers into their NCAA Div. II Southeast Region game against Mount Olive on Friday.

Special Photo Clayton State forward Shannon Smith will help lead the top-ranked Lakers into their NCAA Div. II Southeast Region game against Mount Olive on Friday.

MORROW — After finishing his scouting report on today’s opponent Mount Olive College earlier this week at practice, Clayton State coach Dennis Cox gave his team a little reminder about the old coaches’ cliché’ about on any given day.

As impressive as Clayton State resume has looked this season entering the NCAA Div. II Southeast Region, Mount Olive has been on a hot streak.

The Trojans head into today’s 6 p.m. matchup at the Athletics and Fitness Center on a three-game win streak that clinched the Conference Carolinas tournament championship and an automatic berth into the Big Dance.

Mount Olive defeated three teams that it went a combined 0-6 against during the regular season.

And that brief, but impressive win streak has the Lakers’ attention.

“At this point everybody is playing for the right to keep playing,” Cox said.

The Trojans are no stranger to first-round tournament magic. In its last appearance in the NCAA tournament, Mount Olive traveled to Pennsylvania and knocked off top-seeded Indiana (Pa.) in the first round in 2008.

Cox is aware that the Trojans have made the 12-hour bus ride from North Carolina with the same intentions.

“We have tried to keep this as the next game in line,” Mount Olive coach Wendy Lee said in a release posted on the team’s website. “We just got through playing three games against some of the best competition around, in hostile environments. The biggest difference is we haven’t played this team. They haven’t played us either. This group of girls is not going to be intimidated by them.”

The Trojans have proven to be battle tested by winning all three conference tournament games on the road.

With a 29-0 record and a top ranking in the country, Clayton State realizes all the pressure is perhaps on them.

But with a seasoned group, including four that played on the 2011 national title team, the players say they are ready for the spotlight.

“There is some pressure because everyone wants to beat you,” said senior guard Drameka Griggs, who was recently named the Southeast Region Player of the Year. “With each win, that bull’s eye on your back gets bigger.”