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Clayton State looking for improvement down stretch

Clayton State coach Paul Harrison said his team still has a chance to get on a roll with the conference tournament approaching. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Clayton State coach Paul Harrison said his team still has a chance to get on a roll with the conference tournament approaching. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

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Sophomore Sirdarius Henry has averaged 10.8 points and 3.5 assist for the Clayton State Lakers this season. (Special: Kevin Liles, Clayton State)

MORROW — When Clayton State first-year coach Paul Harrison looks over the season so far, he says there is just as much reason to be encouraged as there is to be discouraged

The discouragement comes from being in a lot of games, but unable to close out with a win.

On the encouraging side, the team has been able to weather some adversity on and off the court and still have a chance at some more victories, especially in Peach Belt Conference games.

“All things considered, I think we have given a couple games away,” Harrison said. “We are learning what to do in some parts of the game. We have played well enough to win a few games.”

Entering tonight’s 7:30 p.m. contest at Georgia College, the Lakers are 6-11 on the season and 2-8 in Peach Belt play.

Saturday featured the latest in a season of games the Lakers had an opportunity to win. Clayton State lost 84-81 to North Georgia at the Athletics Center.

Leading by five points with 1:30 left in the game, the Lakers had three costly turnovers in less than a minute span, and North Georgia scored six unanswered points off them to take a one-point lead with under 40 seconds left.

North Georgia guard Shaquan Cantrell cut the lead to three points on two free throws with 1:23 left, followed by guard Chris Tanzy hitting a jumper to cut the deficit to one point. A layup by Cantrell off a Laker turnover gave the Nighthawks an 80-79 lead.

The Lakers had one final chance in the closing seconds, as the team trailed by three points, 82-79. Guard Sirdarius Henry was fouled on a 3-pointer with three seconds remaining, but he was only able to convert two of the three free throw attempts.

“We have been a rebound or a free throw away from closing out a game,” Harrison said. “There is a lot of parity in this league. We are in games, and we have had a chance to win some.”

Harrison was named Lakers coach last spring when longtime coach Gordon Gibbons resigned. Prior to his stint at Clayton State, Harrison coached at Wofford and College of Charleston.

Coming into the season, the Lakers had to replace three starters, who been in the line-up two to three seasons. A couple players that Harrison was counting on this season, either were declared ineligible or had a late start on the season while clearing up some NCAA issues.

Senior Omari Murray had to sit out the first semester while satisfying an NCAA issue, but has averaged 11.4 points in 12 games. He wasn’t able to go through preseason practice with the team. The team is led by another senior Charles Shedrick, who is averaging 17.4 points per game.

“Omari wasn’t able to practice and learn some of the stuff that we were doing in the preseason,” Harrison said. “Since his return, he has really blended into what we are doing.”