Senior guard Tia Williams (Dacula, Ga.) wrapped up a stellar four-year career by pouring in a game-high 25 points but No. 9 Limestone College (27-4) saw its record-shattering season come to a close, falling to No. 1 Clayton State University (32-0) by a final of 87-65 in the NCAA Southeast Regional Championship Game at the Athletics & Fitness Center.
Williams was named to the Southeast Region All-Tournament Team after averaging 22.3 points per game during Limestone's NCAA Tournament run. Senior guard Stephanie Hayes (Hopkins, S.C.) finished with 17 points, five assist and five steals while senior forward Ashley Robinson (Whittier, N.C.) collected eight points and four rebounds in their final collegiate game.
Senior forward Danielle Dixon (Henderson, Ky.) recorded six points while Limestone's all-time leading scorer Maria Young (Asheville, N.C.) chipped in five.
Clayton State advances to the Elite 8 in San Antonio, Texas and will face Central Regional Champion Augustana (S.D.).
Trailing by six with 13:47 left in the game, Limestone continued to keep matters close against the nationally top-ranked Lakers as a layup by Hayes made it a 55-48 ballgame midway through the period. Clayton State answered with four straight to grab an 11-point advantage but a jumper by Williams pulled the Saints to within 59-50 a minute later.
A three by Drameka Griggs (Ellenwood, Ga.) and six points by Shacamra Jackson (Marietta, Ga.) then keyed a 12-3 surge as the Lakers pushed its margin out to 71-53 with 5:31 remaining. Limestone put together one last charge as a three-pointer by Hayes capped a 9-3 stretch to close the lead to 12, but Clayton State would put the game away by going 9-of-10 from the charity stripe over the final two minutes to secure the 87-65 decision.
A three-pointer by Kayla Mobley (Plantation, Fla.) got CSU off to a fast start, jumping out to a 6-0 lead right out of the gates before eventually taking an 11-2 advantage with 16:10 remaining in the opening half. Limestone quickly countered, however, as back-to-back layups by Robinson sparked a 10-2 run over the next three minutes to close the gap to 13-12.
The Saints went ice cold from the floor from that point, going without a field goal over an 8:30 stretch until Williams snapped it with a conventional three-point play at the 4:33 mark. Clayton State took full advantage of the lull, outscoring the Blue and Gold 10-0 during the stretch behind Mobley's four points to make it a 23-12 contest.
After Williams broke the drought with her three-point play, sophomore forward Alicia Brookins (Auburn, Ga.) then dropped in consecutive buckets to cut into the lead 26-19 but the Lakers answered with a 10-3 spurt to seize a 14-point cushion with 36 ticks left in the half. Hayes connected on a pair of free ones to close the half, sending the Saints into the locker room trailing 36-24.
Limestone and Clayton State traded jabs to open the second half with the Lakers still holding a 12-point edge with five minutes gone by. Although the Saints went 0-for-15 from behind the arc in the first half, LC used the long ball to get back into the game as Hayes and Young drilled consecutive rainmakers to make it 47-41 with 13:47 remaining.
Despite a slow first half, Limestone rebounded by going 50% from the field in the second. Clayton State finished 30-of-65 (46.2%) from the floor for the game. The Lakers held a massive 47-31 advantage on the boards and a 14-0 margin in second chance points. Although turnovers were about the same on both ends, CSU finished with a 21-8 edge in points off turnovers.
Griggs tallied 23 points off the bench to lead the Lakers while Mobley collected a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Jackson tallied 16 points while Bena Hanyard (Marietta, Ga.) finished with 10.
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