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Clayton State women's team earn NCAA Tournament berth

Clayton State senior guard Bena Hanyard played well enough in the recent Peach Belt Conference Tournament to be named to the all-tournament team. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Clayton State senior guard Bena Hanyard played well enough in the recent Peach Belt Conference Tournament to be named to the all-tournament team. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

IF YOU GO

What: NCAA Div. II Southeast Regional

Where: Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C.

Tickets: Ticket prices will be $10 for each two-game session with children under 12 and student ticket prices set at $5 per session.

Schedule: Friday - noon, No. 6 Belmont Abbey (21-8) vs. No. 3 Wingate (24-5); 2:30 p.m. - No. 7 Limestone (24-5) vs. No. 2 Clayton State (22-6); 6 p.m. - No. 8 Armstrong Atlantic State (19-7) vs. No. 1 Lenoir-Rhyne (24-6); 8:30 p.m. - No. 5 Columbus State (21-7) vs. No. 4 North Georgia (22-6). Saturday: 4 p.m. - Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner; 6:30 - Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner. Monday: 7 p.m. championship game.

What’s next: Monday’s winner advances to Elite Eight in Erie, Pa.

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Dennis Cox says his Clayton State team will have to play real well to defeat Limestone in the opening game of the Southeast Regional on Friday in Hickory, N.C. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

MORROW — Clayton State will make its 10th straight NCAA Division II appearance this Friday when the Lakers take on Limestone College in the Southeast Regional in North Carolina.

The Lakers (22-6) received an at-large berth into the 64-team field and will be the No. 2 seed in the Regional, which will be hosted by top-seed Lenoir-Rhyne.

Limestone (24-5) won the Conference Carolinas tournament last week, and will enter the Regionals on an 11-game winning streak. The Saints have four players that are averaging double figure scoring.

Game time is set for 2:30 p.m. at Shuford Memorial Gymnasium in Hickory, N.C.

“They are a very hot team,” Clayton State coach Dennis Cox said. “We are very familiar with them and likewise for them. This time of year you don’t need ways to motivate yourself. This is the lose and you are done time of year.”

Clayton State lost in the semifinals of the Peach Belt Conference tournament to eventual champion Columbus State, which hosted the four-day tournament. Clayton State has won the Regional four times to advance to the Elite Eight.

This will be the second straight season that the two teams will meet in the NCAA tournament. Last season, Clayton State defeated the Saints 87-65 in the Regional Finals at the Athletics Center.

“I’m still a little surprised at how we were seeded higher than them because they have the better record,” Cox said. “I do know that they are an awfully good team. At this point, there are no easy ones.”

With a Sweet 16 appearance just a season ago, the Saints earned their third straight trip to the NCAA Division II National Championship Tournament with an automatic bid after claiming the Conference Carolinas Tournament for the second time in program history.

Lenoir-Rhyne secured the top overall seed after clinching a share of the South Atlantic Conference regular season title. The Bears will play eighth-seeded Armstrong Atlantic in the opening round.

North Georgia, the No. 4 seed, will take on Columbus State. Wingate enters the tourney as the third seed despite knocking off Lenoir-Rhyne in the championship game of the SAC Tournament. Limestone’s conference rival Belmont Abbey will be the No. 6 seed.

Of local Southern Crescent note, Chatil Bradford, a Morrow graduate will lead Columbus State. Bradford, a senior, was named MVP of the recent Peach Belt Conference Tournament after leading the Cougars to the title. She was second team all-conference selection during the regular season.

Columbus State is making its seventh NCAA Tournament appearance in program history and the first since the 2007 campaign. The Lady Cougars reached the 2000 and 2001 NCAA Tournament Final Four.