Senior Drameka Griggs had 23 points and five steals, Kayla Mobley, who was named Most Outstanding Player, added 17 and 12 rebounds and Shacamra Jackson scored 16 as No. 1 ranked Clayton State defeated Limestone 87-65 at the Athletics and Fitness Center on Monday in the finale of the Southeast Regional.
“We’re elated and really looking forward to the opportunity of being in the Elite Eight,” Clayton State women’s coach Dennis Cox said. “Last year, we were devastated when we got knocked out because we wanted to defend that title. So this team has been extremely focused on getting back and I think you saw their determination is this tournament.”
“[Being named Most Outstanding Player] is a blessing because I've never really gotten that recognition like that,” Mobley said. “But I don't have a problem with not getting it because I'm always going to work hard all the time.”
“I thought our kids played with great heart the whole night,” Limestone women’s coach Corey Fox said. “We obviously didn't make enough shots but our kids just battled against the constant pressure.”
As a result of improving to 32-0 this season, the Lady Lakers will face Augustana (S.D.), winners of the Central Regional, in the Elite Eight on March 26 at Bill Greehey Arena in San Antonio.
“Kayla Mobley has been unbelievable in this tournament,” Cox said. “It seems like when we ask her to get every rebound she gets every rebound.”
“Mobley was a very tough matchup for us because we play four guards,” Fox said.
Even though the final score indicated another postseason blowout at the hands of the Lady Lakers, they didn’t shake Limestone’s threat until seven minutes were left in the game.
For the early part of the second half, Clayton State maintained either a double-digit lead or a safe single-digit advantage until Maria Young, who missed her first seven 3-point attempts, nailed a shot beyond the arc for a 47-41 score with just under 14 minutes left.
“We do not win this game if Shay Shay [Jackson] doesn’t do the job she did on Maria Young, who was the best wing on the floor,” Cox said. “Jackson is the Peach Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year and she showed why tonight.”
But consecutive baskets by Keona Dixon and Mobley extended the margin back to double digits and the Lady Lakers continued to trade buckets again with the Lady Saints (27-4) until the contest turned into a rout.
“This game was much closer than the final score indicated,” Cox said. “We had to defend those guards and that was the key.”
Tia Williams scored 25 points and Stephanie Hayes added 17 for the visitors.
“This was a terrific season,” Fox said. “Also record breaking since we had never won a NCAA tournament game before.”
In the first half, Clayton State raced out to an 11-2 lead before Limestone responded with a 10-2 surge to draw within a point. But a basket by Dixon triggered a 10-0 run which was capped on a steal and layup by Griggs for a 23-12 advantage.
"Drameka Griggs did her thing again tonight,” Cox said.
Both teams doubled their scoring totals from that point and the Lady Lakers would enter halftime with a 36-24 lead, partly due to Limestone’s 0-for-15 start from the 3-point line.
“At halftime, we felt really fortunate to have any kind of lead because they missed a lot of open shots that they don't normally miss,” Cox said. “But because we apply constant pressure, when people do get open shots they do tend to rush them because they are surprised that the pressure isn't there. I thought that may have been a part of it.”
Bena Hanyard made all six of her foul shots en route to finishing with 10 points for Clayton State, which held Limestone to 37-percent shooting overall while scoring 21 points off turnovers.