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CLINTON — Sophomore Ciara Stuart fired in 10 of her game-high 16 points in the final period as Clinton closed the game with a 16-8 run and defeated West Bladen 47-35 Monday night in the opening round of the Southeastern Athletic Conference Girls Basketball Tournament.

The Lady Knights, now 4-16, will have to wait until Saturday to see if they receive a bid to the NCHSAA Class 2A Playoffs. Clinton improved to 13-10 and advanced to the SAC Tournament semifinals Thursday night against St. Pauls.

The West Bladen defense held the Lady Dark Horses to a single point in the 3rd quarter as the Lady Knights trimmed a 30-20 lead to 31-27. Sophomore Kali Allen sank a free throw, and senior Kiera Lewis drove for a lay-up. Junior Alina Chavez tossed in 2 free throws, and sophomore Natalee Sykes popped in an 8-footer off of a feed from junior Holland Davis.

Clinton’s Ava Williford dropped in a lay-up to begin the final period, but Chavez flipped in a follow shot to whittle the lead to 33-29 with 6:36 left. Freshman Rubi Davila canned a free throw, before Stuart turned a steal into a lay-up, drilled in a 3-pointer then scored a 3-point play in transition to open up a 42-31 lead at the 3:15 mark.

Lewis swished 2 free throws, and Davis drove the base line for a lay-in. Sykes connected on 2 more foul shots for the Lady Knights.

Allen buried a trio of 1st half 3-point shots and led the Lady Knights with 11 points and 4 rebounds. Lewis finished with 8 points, 7 rebounds and 6 steals. Chavez and Sykes totaled 7 points each. Sykes grabbed 5 rebounds, and Chavez and Davis collected 4 rebounds each.

Chavez connected on 3 of 4 foul shots in the 1st quarter, and Lewis hooked in a 10-foot runner then nailed a pair of free throws to put West up 7-4 at the 1:56 mark. Stuart and Williford threw in lay-ups, and Davila pumped in a 10-footer for a 10-7 Clinton lead at the break.

Davila and Stuart sparked a Clinton 20-point 2nd period surge with 2 baskets each. Allen answered by draining 3-point shots from the right wing, the left wing and again from the right wing. Sykes bombed in a 3-ball from the right corner, and Allen added a free throw.

Williford tallied 9 points for the Lady Dark Horses, and Davila followed with 7.

West Bladen  7   13  7    8 — 35
Clinton          10  20  1  16 — 47

West Bladen (35) — Faith Wren, Janavia Adams, Elle Kinlaw, Natalee Sykes 7, Tah’lela Bethea, Holland Davis 2, Kiera Lewis 8, Kali Allen 11, Alina Chavez 7, Zamariah Ward, Saniya Martin.

Clinton (47) — Phoenix Everett 2, Ciara Stuart 16, Evan Gillespie, Rubi Davila 7, Jianna Pickett, Jayla Pickett, Janiyah Simmons 2, Ava Williford 9, DaNiyah Coxum 3, Larkin Best 2, Giana Smith 3, Janiya Mosley 3, London McNeil.

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