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MORROW — For nearly three quarters, the Clayton State women engaged in a back-and-forth battle with Augusta, but then the team with the better record – the Lady Lakers – began to find their groove on the way to their 11th win of the season.
Senior Tierra Johnson scored a game-high 26 points and Andrea Benford added 17 points and 10 rebounds to help Clayton State earn a 79-63 victory at The Loch on January 9.
“They actually started defending,” Clayton State women’s coach Kaleena Coleman said. “They were defending better than in the first half and I felt like they were executing, making shots and getting to the basket because our threes weren’t falling for us tonight.”
With the Lady Lakers trailing by a point in the third quarter, Jimecheia Banks turned a steal into a layup on the other end with 4:30 left in the frame. Then 90 seconds later, Dejoun Dennard blocked a shot, which led to a breakaway layup for Johnson and a 43-40 score.
To add to the shift in momentum, senior Rayven Thomas (10 points, seven boards) converted back-to-back layups while being fouled for a pair of three-point plays and a 49-43 lead. Johnson added another layup on the next possession and scored in the same manner at the end of the quarter for a 55-48 margin.
Clayton State opened the final quarter with eight straight points, highlighted on buckets by Johnson and Benford for a 15-point advantage with 8:19 to go. The Lady Lakers extended their lead to 20 points on the way to improving to 3-2 in Peach Belt Conference (PBC) competition.
Abrea Harris (17 points) and Breonna O’Conner (16) were forces on the offensive end in the first half for the Lady Jags but were limited to a combined 10 points in the final two quarters.
“They executed the game plan by playing off of them and making them shoot,” Coleman said. “They are great players and great at attacking so our game plan was to play off of them and force them to shoot the 3.”
Clayton State held Augusta to 32 percent shooting in the second half and outscored the visitors 46-29 during that time span.