MORROW, Ga. –- The first time Clayton State played USC Aiken this season, Laker guard and NCAA Division II Southeastern Player of the Year Drameka Griggs scored 20 points and took over the game in the final minute of a 56-50 Clayton State win.
The second Laker/Pacer matchup, in the semifinals of the Peach Belt Tournament, Griggs scored a career high 34 points, missing tying the Laker single-game record by one, in a 75-62 Clayton State win.
In Saturday’s semifinals of the NCAA Southeastern Regional tournament at Clayton State, the Pacers were determined to at least slow down Griggs and, indeed, she had only her third single-digit scoring game all year. So what happened? The Lakers cruised to an 83-66 win, because they are far from a one-person team.
Although it’s too simple to credit a single player with the win, a lot could be said for the contributions of senior forward Kayla Mobley, who scored a career-high 26 points on 11 for 14 shooting, and added eight rebounds and four assists.
“We either show up, or it’s not going to happen,” said Mobley, also a starter on the Lakers’ 2011 national championship team. “This is my last year, I’m going to go all out. It’s my last chance to do it.”
“She’s playing at the top of her game,” said Laker Coach Dennis Cox after the number-one ranked Lakers ran their season record to 31-0 as the only undefeated team in either Division I or Division II. “We were dominating the inside.
“In order to beat somebody as good as Aiken three times, we had to be better than when we played them the first two times.”
Playing better against the 25th-ranked Pacers (22-8) formidable inside duo of Portia Martin and 6-5 Tiffani Moody, Mobley combined with Shacamra Jackson (17 points) to account for more than half of the Lakers’ total. And that’s without going into their defensive efforts.
“One key thing to the game was Shay Jackson’s defense on Portia Martin,” said Cox. “The game was decided in the first half. We felt we hadn’t pressed them like we’re capable of doing. We’re pressing better, and we pressed the tempo. We got them to run with us.”
Another big part of the Laker offense, and defense, was junior guard Bena Hanyard, who scored 15, including 10 in the second half that included back-to-back threes at a point where Aiken was threatening to get back into the game.
“We had a good inside-outside game against their zone,” commented Cox.
Clayton State led by as many as 20 in the first half, before settling for a 44-30 halftime lead. In the second half, the Pacers could only come within 10 once, at 44-34 with 18:17 remaining. However, two unanswered baskets by Mobley, followed by one by Griggs, built the lead back to 16, and the Lakers controlled the game the rest of the way.
Although held to eight points on only 10 shots, Griggs also had 10 assists, six rebounds and four steals and became the first Laker women’s basketball player to eclipse 600 points in a season, ending the night with 607.
The Pacers were led by Daniela Tarailo, who scored a game-high 29 points, largely on a 15-for-15 night at the foul line. However, as the Pacers found out, you sometimes need more than one great player.