Claflin beats Clark Atlanta to advance in NCAA DII Tournament

Atlanta, Ga.—  No. 3 seeded Claflin University defeated Clark Atlanta, 72-61, to advance to the 2018 NCAA DII Men’s Basketball South Region semi-final.  The win pushes the Panthers record to 26-6 overall.  Clark Atlanta close out the season at 24-6.  This is the second NCAA Regional win for Claflin and the first in nine years.  The Panthers defeated Valdosta State, 54-50, on March 14, 2009 in Lakeland, Fla.  Claflin then lost its second round game to Christian Brothers (3-15-09), 72-53.

The 2018 regional will run through Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at Forbes Arena on the campus of Morehouse College.

Claflin will face No.7 seed Barry University, who upset the No. 2 seed West Florida 90-73, on Sunday, March 11 at 5 p.m.  Links for live stats and video for Sunday’s game will available the day of the game and will available on the Claflin University athletics website.

Jaleel Charles continued to play solid, posting a double-double, 15 points-10 rebounds to pace Claflin.

Benjamin “Tre” Williams also scored 15 points, 11 in the second half.  He added six rebounds and four assists to his stat line.

The Panthers finished the game with three players in double figures as Timothy Christian II dropped in 15 points in the win.

Clark Atlanta was led by Damien Davis with a game-high 24 points and 10 rebounds.  Jalen Mitchell scored 14 and Anthony Williams recorded a double-double 10 points with 10 rebounds.

“Let me say hats off to Clark Atlanta, Coach Walker does a good job with his crew for it being only his second season I think he’s done an excellent job,” head coach Ricky Jackson said.  “We had tough opponent today.  They say it’s hard to beat a team three times in a row but apparently we overcame that today and I’m just proud of my crew for the yeoman’s work they put in today.”

The Panthers held Clark Atlanta to just 34.3 percent shooting from the field and 20.8 percent from behind the arc.  Clark Atlanta entered the game shooting .453 from the field and .381 from behind the arc.

“We’ve hung our hats on defense all season because that’s what get us going,” said Jackson. “The game plan was pretty much the same as it was last week, we played zone and they would have to beat us from the outside.”

Clark Atlanta opened the second half with a 7-2 run to cut the seven point half-time lead to two, 36-34.  The Panthers then used a 12-1 run of their own to regain the momentum and a commanding lead, 51-37, with 12:51 left in the contest.

The Panthers maintained at least a nine point lead the rest of the way en route to the nine point victory.

“Coach told me the game plan was to throw me the ball inside and for me to impose my will, so I just continued to do that,” said Charles.

Claflin outscored Clark Atlanta 38-26 in the paint.

“We have confidence in one another and we know what we’ve been through and we know what we are capable of,” stated Williams.  “There wasn’t one point in the game where we were overly confident we just had the confidence in ourselves, that if we did what we needed to do we could take care of this win and move on to the next round.”

The Panthers received 16 points from its bench players.

Clark Atlanta opened the game with a 5-0 run in the first 30 seconds.  Claflin defense then went to work, forcing Clark Atlanta into two straight turnovers and scoring five straight points to tie the game at 5-all at the 17:38 mark.

The Panthers offense remained aggressive, scoring six straight points out of the media timeout (15:25) for an overall 11-0 run to take the 11-5 lead.

Clark Atlanta then used an 8-4 run of its own to pull within two 13-15, at the 12:04 mark.  A three-pointer by Williams gave Clark Atlanta the brief one-point lead but a short jumper by Tondric Johnson, who game off the bench to score five points with seven rebounds, ended the run to give Claflin the one point advantage.  The Panthers never relinquished the lead from that point.

Claflin then rattled off six straight points to take a 21-18 lead.  The Panthers would push its first half lead to nine, 34-25 before enjoying the seven point lead at intermission.

If Claflin wins its regional semifinal game they will advance to the regional final to face either Florida Southern, who upset the No. 1 seed and host Morehouse College, or the winner of the Eckerd/Valdosta State game.  The regional final is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March. 13.

Claflin Athletics contributed to the writing of this article.

Categories: Local Sports, Sports