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SEASON RECAP: Clayton State women's basketball

Lakers have to replace three starters from championship team

Clayton State sophomore forward/center Andrea Benford is expected to play a larger role next season for the Lakers as they try to defend their conference championship. (Special Photo)

Clayton State sophomore forward/center Andrea Benford is expected to play a larger role next season for the Lakers as they try to defend their conference championship. (Special Photo)

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Clayton State sophomore guard Kayla Pryce averaged 5.4 points and 3.8 assists this past season for the Lakers. (Special Photo)

A 75-65 loss to Limestone College on Friday afternoon at Shuford Memorial Gymnasium ended the Clayton State women’s basketball season in the first round of the NCAA Division II Tournament in Hickory, N.C.

Clayton State entered the first round as the No. 2 seed in the Regional while Limestone was the No. 7 seed after winning both the regular season and Carolinas Conference Tournament championship. The Saints entered the game on an 11-game wining streak.

It was the first time the Lakers had been defeated in the opening round of the Southeast Regional since a 69-53 defeated by Tusculum in 2010.

The Clayton News Daily takes a look at the season overall:

Season review

Clayton State weathered a mid-season three-game losing streak to bounce back and clinch the Peach Belt Conferece regular season title. A win over Columbus State in the regular-season finale at home gave the Lakers the title outright. The Lakers ended the regular season on a 14-game winning streak before consecutive losses ended the season. One of the losses came to Columbus State in the conference semifinals before a loss to Limestone in NCAA tournament. Clayton ended the season with a 22-7 record, and made its 10th straight tournament appearance. The three-game losing streak was the first time in the Dennis Cox era that the Lakers lost that many consecutive games in a row.

What went right

For starters, senior Shacamra Jackson was again the most dominate defensive player in the league. She earned the conference’s defensive player of the year award for the second straight season en route to being named first team all-conference. The Marietta native also became the team’s leading scorer with a 15.3 scoring average and dominated on the defensive end by averaging 7.6 rebounds and 3.6 rebounds per game. Once the newcomers became familar with Cox’s defensive concept, the Lakers became one of the best defensive teams in the league. Senior Bena Hanyard was second on the team with a 12.4 scoring average. Faced with several new faces on the team, the team jelled midway through the season to clinch the regular-season conference title.

Chances next season

The Lakers will have to replace three talented seniors, including all-conference selections Jackson and Hanyard. Under Cox leadership, the program has reached elite Division II status and should benefit by the influx of Division I transfers. Two of the returning starters were just sophomores and Tiayra Green, a Riverdale native, and Tweety Hawkins are expected to expand their role next season. Benford had a solid sophomore year by averaging 11.8 points and 7.4 rebounds. If the team can find another shot blocker like Jackson, the Lakers will again be a dominate defensive unit. A good omen for the Lakers is that in 2010 when they lost in the first round, Clayton State came back the next season to win the national tournament.