Last-second basket gives Wingate thrilling 64-63 victory over No. 6 Clayton State women
AIKEN, S.C. – March 10, 2012 – The Clayton State Laker women's basketball team made a valiant rally on Saturday against Wingate in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional. However, the Bulldogs converted a big last-second basket for a thrilling 64-63 victory over Clayton State at the Convocation Center.
The defeat ends Clayton State's season 29-4 overall. Wingate improves to 24-7 and advances to Monday's NCAA Division II "Sweet 16" round for the Southeast Regional championship.
Clayton State had battled back from as many as nine points down late in the second half, and took a 63-62 lead on a 3-point basket by Drameka Griggs with 10 seconds remaining. But Wingate's Nikki Burton drove the ball the length of the court and scored on a running jumper on the right baseline with four seconds remaining.
A last-second shot by the Lakers' Keona Dixon was off as time expired.
"I was real proud of the way we fought today, and we knew it would be a grind-out game," said Clayton State head coach Dennis Cox. "But we didn't defend well today. When we defend, we are going to win a lot of games. But we are not proud of the way we defended today.
"But I was proud of the way we hung in there and made it exciting. A lot of credit to Wingate – they have been playing with a lot of momentum."
Like the first-round game against Tusculum on Friday, Clayton State struggled shooting from the field in the first half. The Lakers shot only 29 percent in trailing by six points at halftime. Wingate used a 9-0 run to wipe out a 3-point Clayton State lead as Janitsha Williams hit a 3-point basket to give the Bulldogs a 22-16 lead with 4:31 remaining.
Another 3-point basket by Kurie Washington stretched the Wingate lead to six points. Washington then made a lay-up 32 seconds remaining to give the Bulldogs a 31-25 lead at halftime.
Wingate kept its lead between five and eight points for much of the second half. Williams drained a 3-point basket to give the Bulldogs a 45-37 lead at 12:47 mark, and a lay-up by Burton gave Wingate a 49-41 lead with 8:22 remaining. A 3-point play by Simone Rutledge gave Wingate its largest lead 58-49 with 4:21 remaining.
That's when Clayton State rallied. Brittany Hall hit a 3-point basket and Dixon sank a short jumper off a Bulldog turnover. Back-to-back steals and transition lay-ups by Griggs and Dixon tied the game 60-60 with 55 seconds remaining. After Burton hit two free throws, Griggs drained the big 3-point basket to give the Lakers the one-point lead.
But Burton answered with the big running baseline jumper to give Wingate the thrilling triumph.
Griggs paced Clayton State with 18 points. Woodard and Hall – the Lakers' two seniors – scored 14 points and 11 points, respectively. Both players concluded their storied Clayton State careers with a 114-19 record and the 2011 NCAA Division II National Championship. Dixon added 13 points for the Lakers.
"It's the end of an era at Clayton State," Cox said. "What these two (Woodard and Hall) have done in their four-year careers have been unbelievable. It will not be the same without them. We'll go on, but it won't be the same without them."
Burton scored 16 points to pace Wingate, followed by Rutledge with 15 points and Washington with 13 points.