March 13, 2009

Hickory, N.C. - Senior guard Marie St. Fort scored 17 points and sparked a key first-half run, and third-seeded Clayton State University would hold on for a 68-66 win over sixth-seeded Carson-Newman College, Friday afternoon (March 13) in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional women's basketball tournament.

Clayton State (24-6) advances to face second-seeded and 16th-ranked Tusculum College in Saturday's first semifinal at 6 p.m. Carson-Newman finishes its season at 19-11. It was the third time the two programs have met in the NCAA Tournament over the past five years, and Clayton State has captured the last two meetings (2007 and 2009).

St. Fort scored 15 of her 17 points in the opening half, and in the process became the fifth Lady Laker to surpass 1,000 career points. Brittany Hall added 11 points on 4-fo-4 shooting, while Lisa Jackson and Lesheria Stevens chipped in 10 points apiece. Jackson, 5-11 senior forward, hauled down a game-high 14 rebounds.

Senior guard Angela Volentine led Carson-Newman with 12 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, while Lindsey Eggleston came off the Lady Eagles' bench to tally 11 points and eight rebounds. Ashley Tipson added 10 points.

Carson-Newman held a 24-18 lead after Eggleston scored on a follow shot at the 8:00 mark. Clayton State answered with three straight baskets to tie the score at 24-24. The Lady Eagles would go back up 29-26 as Ashley Kyle scored on a driving layup.

St Fort ignited a 13-0 Lady Laker run with seven straight points as Clayton State flowed ahead 39-29 with less than a minute remaining in the half. The two teams traded buckets in the final 26 seconds for a 41-31 Clayton State advantage at intermission.

The margin was still 10 points (48-38) early in the second stanza. A stick-back basket by Eggleston capped a 9-2 Carson-Newman spurt that brought the Lady Eagles to within 50-47 with 16:01 remaining in the contest.

The Lady Lakers would surge back up by double digits, 60-49 and later 66-55 with 7:26 left on an offensive rebound and bucket by Jackson. However, Clayton State would score only two points over the final seven minutes, those on a baseline jumper by Nikkisha Pritchett with 3:43 left that put the Lady Lakers up 68-63.

Two free throws by Tipton with 1:17 left pulled Carson-Newman to within 68-65. The Lady Eagles' Shari Buford then hit one of two free throws with 20.2 ticks remaining to cut the margin to one point. Following a 1-and-1 miss by Clayton State's Dominique Jennings with 11.5 seconds on the clock, Carson-Newman had one final opportunity to win or force overtime.

Following a timeout, the in-bounds pass was mishandled and a 40-foot heave by Mandy Mendenhall at the final buzzer was off the mark.

Carson-Newman came into the contest ranked second nationally in team field goal percentage at 47.4 percent, but the Lady Lakers' defense held the Lady Eagles to 41.8 percent shooting while also forcing 24 turnovers.