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Clayton State begins title journey

Special Photo by Kevin Liles 
Clayton State’s Dennis Cox is chasing his second NCAA Div. II National Championship in three years. His top-ranked Lakers will meet Augustana (S.D.) in the Elite Eight Tuesday in San Antonio, Texas.

Special Photo by Kevin Liles Clayton State’s Dennis Cox is chasing his second NCAA Div. II National Championship in three years. His top-ranked Lakers will meet Augustana (S.D.) in the Elite Eight Tuesday in San Antonio, Texas.

MORROW — In the world of women’s college basketball Clayton State and Augustana (S.D.) are strangers.

Clayton State vs. Augustana (S.D.)

When, where: Tuesday, 1 p.m. at Greehey Arena in San Antonio, Texas

Webcast: http://www.ncaa.c...

Records, rankings: Clayton State is 32-0 and ranked No. 1; Augustana is 27-6 and ranked No. 24.

Probable starters: Clayton State — G Bena Hanyard (5-7, Jr.), G Kayla Pryce (5-6, Fr.), G Keona Dixon (5-7, Sr.), F Kayla Mobley (5-11, Sr.), F Shay Jackson (6-1, Jr.); Augustana — G Emily Schulte (5-7, Jr.), G Faith Tinklenbery (5-11, Sr.), G Shaunteva Ashley (5-8, So.), F Lydia Nelson (6-0, Sr.), F Alex Feeney (6-0, Sr.).

Stat leaders: Clayton State — Drameka Griggs 19.7 ppg; Mobley 10.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg; Jackson 8.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg. Augustana — Feeney 14.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg; Ashley 10.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg; Schulte 10.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg.

How they got here: Clayton State won the Peach Belt Conference title and defeated Mount Olive (91-58), USC Aiken (83-66), and Limestone (87-65) in the Southeast Regional. Augustana won the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and defeated Concordia-St. Paul (78-66), SW Oklahoma State (68-64), Emporia State (75-74) in the Central Regional.

What’s next: The winner advances to the semifinals on Wednesday at 7 p.m. to face the Dowling- Colorado Mesa winner.

That will change Tuesday when the two teams meet in a 1 p.m. Elite Eight game in the NCAA Div. II national tournament.

By halftime the two squads will have probably developed a good feel for what the other likes to do and will be more knowledgeable on how to attack the other.

Until then, Clayton State coach Dennis Cox said they will take what little they know about the Lady Vikings and make do.

“I really haven’t had a chance to look at Augustana a whole lot,” Cox said in Tuesday’s Elite Eight telephone press conference. “For what I’ve seen briefly, they’re a well-rounded team, they shoot extremely well from the perimeter. They’ve got quickness at the point and should matchup well with us. And they’re leading scorer is a great inside out player.”

That would be Augustana forward Alex Feeney. The 6-foot senior forward will come into Tuesday’s contest leading the Vikings in scoring and rebounds. Feeney is averaging 14.4 points and 7.2 boards per game, and has been, according to Vikings coach Dave Krauth, the “most obvious” leader on the team. But not the only one.

“We’ve got a great group of seniors. Our four seniors have all had their moments,” Krauth said. “Collectively they’ve just kind of put their best foot forward and played their best lately.”

Feeney is supported by junior guard Emily Schulte and sophomore Shanteva Ashley; both guards chip in just over 10 points per contest.

But fellow senior Faith Tinklenberg is, at 5-foot-11, a big guard who can shoot and cause potential matchup problems for the smaller Clayton State backcourt. Tinklenberg is shooting just under 43 percent from three point range.

Augustana’s view of the No. 1 Lakers is a little bit different than what the Lakers have of the Vikings — seeing as how Krauth has some prior Clayton State tournament footage to devour in the film room.

This season in the NCAA Div. II national tournament is a first for Augustana.

“We have seen Clayton State in the Elite Eight in the past,” Krauth said. “I know their style. It’s a very aggressive style. We’ve seen teams similar to them but not as talented. We’ll try to get more familar as the week goes on and prepare ourselves as much as we can.”

Part of that preparation for Augustana is controlling the big stage jitters.

“There are going to be nerves,” Krauth said. “I sensed that during our conference tournament and regional tournament. Obviously now the stage is much bigger.”

And although Clayton State has been there, done that when it comes to the national stage — the Lakers won the 2010-11 national championship and have made the national tournament in each of Cox’s nine seasons at the school — the veteran coach is looking forward to leading his team through a familiar setting in a different way.

“We’re just looking forward to the experience,” Cox said. “We’re trying to enjoy the journey. In 2011, we were anticipating an end point so much, we forgot to enjoy it along the way.”

Cox is currently enjoying his team playing perhaps their best ball of the season. The Lakers’ average margin of victory through six postseason games is 24 points.

Senior forward Kayla Mobley, averaging over 17 points per game during the postseason, has elevated her game. And Drameka Griggs, Peach Belt Player of the Year, has often been the pulse of the Lakers’ charge toward a second national title in three seasons.

Cox said Griggs’ status for Tuesday’s game is unknown after getting shaken up toward the end of the first half of Clayton State’s Southeast Regional title game Monday against Limestone.

Regardless, it won’t affect how Cox prepares his team for Tuesday.

“This time of year everybody’s banged up,” Cox said. “It just goes with the territory.”