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Clayton State still counted as a conference contender

Since transferring from Chattahoochee Tech, former Riverdale standout Tiayra Green has been averaging 4.9 points for the Clayton State Lakers. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Since transferring from Chattahoochee Tech, former Riverdale standout Tiayra Green has been averaging 4.9 points for the Clayton State Lakers. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

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Clayton State senior forward Shacamra “Shay” Jackson is averaging a team-leading 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game for the Lakers. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

MORROW — The Clayton State women’s basketball program has been accustomed to making history under coach Dennis Cox.

But Wednesday, the Lakers ended a recent piece of history it cares not to repeat again.

With a 75-53 win over USC Aiken on Wednesday, the Lakers ended a three-game losing skid. The three-game losing streak for the Lakers was the first time a Cox-coached team had lost three straight in his 10 years at the school.

Clayton State improves to 9-5 overall and 4-3 in Peach Belt Conference play heading into Saturday game at UNC Pembroke.

“We needed that win,” said senior forward Shacamra “Shay” Jackson, who finished with a 15 points, six rebounds, three blocks and three steals. “This game was a big step for us. We might have been down, but I think this team is battling back.”

The defending Peach Belt Conference champions knew replacing all but one starter in the line-up would be tough, but a three-game losing streak is very uncharacteristic for the program. Clayton State hasn’t lost more than two games in a row since an eight-game losing streak to end the 2003-04 season under A.C. McCullers.

The following season Cox was hired, and the program has enjoyed unprecedented success, including a Div. II national time during the 2010-11 season.

“We wasn’t really playing with a lot of confidence in those games,” Jackson said. “There is a lot of pressure on this team. We win every year. We just have to have more confidence in our defense, and start playing Clayton State basketball.”

Before Wednesday’s win over USC Aiken, the Lakers suffered losses to Flagler, Young Harris and North Georgia.

“We needed something to get us back on track,” Lakers guard Bena Hanyard said. “We just need to keep working. You can either put your head down, or you can go to work and make corrections. We have to get our offense going. This win over USC Aiken was a huge step for us. I think we are ready to play the way Clayton State plays basketball.”

That Clayton State style of basketball includes pressure defense, something the it did in the USC Aiken game. Clayton State forced 26 turnovers by the Pacers, which resulted into 27 points.

But the win didn’t come as easy as the score would suggest.

Clayton State held a 36-27 lead at intermission only to have USC Aiken open the period with four quick points to the cut the Laker lead to five points, 36-31. The Lakers responded though with a 12-4 run over the next three minutes to take control of the game.

The Lakers have 12 more games before the Peach Belt Tournament begins.

While the team has looked a little more venerable than it has in the past, no one in the conference is ready to count them out.

“You got Dennis Cox over there on the sideline,” USC Aiken coach Mike Bandt said. “They have had a few bumps in the road. Dennis has a system that is hard to learn, and there is no doubt that they will get better. I will not count them out of the conference championship.”