MORROW, Ga. – Spearheaded by a strong final 15 minutes of the second half, the No. 2-ranked Clayton State Lakers advanced in the NCAA Division II Women’s Southeast Regional on Saturday with a 97-71 victory against visiting Barton at the Athletics and Fitness Center.

With the victory, the Lakers improved to 31-1 overall, tying the Peach Belt Conference mark for most overall victories in a season by a women’s program. Clayton State advances to at least the NCAA Division II Sweet 16 for the fourth time in program history, and the Lakers will square off against Peach Belt rival Lander in the Southeast Regional championship on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Athletics and Fitness Center.

It will be a rematch of the classic regular-season showdown between the two teams on Feb. 10. In that game, undefeated and No. 2-ranked Clayton State edged undefeated and No. 1-ranked Lander 83-81.

For a while, it looked in doubt as if the Lakers would not make it to Monday. Clayton State shot only 33 percent from the field in the first half and trailed 38-37 at halftime against a determined Barton team that was coming off a big first-round victory against Georgia College. Then with 14:34 remaining in the contest, the score was deadlocked a 47-47.

That’s when Clayton State made its move. The Lakers went on a 10-1 run as Drameka Griggs scored twice – once on a baseline jump shot and then on a lay-up off a Lady Bulldog turnover. Brittany Hall and Latonda Bruce followed with consecutive 3-point baskets and Clayton State led 57-48 with 13:29 remaining.

Barton never got closer than seven points after that as the Lakers’ pressure defense eventually wore down the Lady Bulldogs.

Woodard gave Clayton State a 63-50 lead with a lay-up in transition at the 11:52 mark, and Bruce drained another 3-point basket to stretch the Laker lead to 70-52 with 8:51 remaining. Back-to-back lay-ups by Renee Jackson and Kayla Mobley gave Clayton State a 19-point lead with 6:48 remaining.

Clayton State finished the contest in a flurry with a 16-3 run, including the game’s final 14 points.

Griggs was tremendous off the bench, pacing the Lakers with 22 points on 12-for-16 shooting from the free throw line. Bruce scored 17 points off the bench, while Hall scored 15 points, Tanisha Woodard scored 14 points and Teshymia Tillman added 12 points. Tillman recorded a double-double with 11 rebounds. 

In the second half, Clayton State shot 53 percent from the field, including 75 percent from 3-point range.

Nyesha Willie and Jannetta Robinson each scored 23 points for Barton (26-5), while Jolanda Mitchell added 10 points.