Led by a dominating performance from Most Outstanding Player Teshymia Tillman, the Clayton State Lakers reached the pinnacle of DII women’s basketball on Friday night as they beat Michigan Tech 69-50 to win their first National Championship! Tillman scored a game-high 26 points, hitting 12 of 18 shots from the floor, with a team-best seven rebounds to lead the Lakers to not only their first national title, but the first women’s basketball national championship in Peach Belt Conference history and the first for any school in the NCAA’s southeast region.
The Lakers conclude their historic season with a 35-1 overall record, setting PBC marks for the most wins in a single season and highest single-season winning percentage. Michigan Tech, making their third straight Elite Eight appearance, finishes 31-3 overall.
Like all three of their Elite Eight games, the championship against Michigan Tech was a close affair throughout most of the first half before the Lakers’ relentless pressure wore down their opponents. The two teams both had trouble finding points in the early going until MT’s Lindsey Lindstrom drained a three-pointer five minutes in that opened up a 7-10 Huskies lead. That lead grew to 18-13 five minutes later on another three-pointer, this one from Sam Hoyt.
Michigan Tech entered the game as the third-best three-point shooting team in the nation, but was held to 10 attempts and five makes in the game, three of those coming in the first half.
The lead remained at five, 20-15, when Clayton State made their first run, a 7-0 spurt that took just over three minutes. Tillman began the run with a free throw and Tanisha Woodard ended it with a layup. Michigan Tech went cold from the floor, missing six straight shots before Lisa Staehlin’s jumper with 4:25 left tied the game at 22.
Clayton State then found their rhythm, hitting four of their final five shots of the first half for a 7-2 run over the final 2:48 that sent them into the locker room with a 31-24 lead.
That momentum carried over as the Lakers scored the first 11 points of the second half, holding the Huskies scoreless until a jumper at the 17:53 mark. The Huskies, who committed fewer turnovers than any team in the nation coming into the game, had five in the first three minutes of the second half.
Kayla Mobley drained a three-pointer for Clayton State with 14:27 left that opened up a 21-point margin at 49-28. The Huskies trimmed that lead down to 16 on three occasions over the next four minutes, but could never get any closer.
Up 16 with 6:53 to play, the Lakers put the issue to rest with an 8-2 dash, four of those points coming on Tillman layups. A three-pointer from Hoyt with 2:55 to go would be the last field goal for the Huskies as the Lakers stormed the court as the final buzzer sounded.
Tillman added a block, a steal and two assists to her line. Drameka Griggs was the only other Laker to reach double figures with 12 points. Brittany Hall and Latonda Bruce added seven each while Bruce and Breanna Fort grabbed five rebounds each.
The Lakers hit 47% (30-63) shots from the field, giving them two game out of three in the Elite Eight where they shot 45% or better. The nation’s leader in steals, the Lakers were actually below their season average with 15 takeaways on the night, but forced a season-high 25 Huskie turnovers. The Lakers also held the Huskies to a season-low point total.
Staehlin led the Huskies with 18 points while Hoyt added 11. Lucy Derovsek had a game-high nine rebounds and four blocks. MT shot 37% (17-45) from the field.
The women’s basketball national championship is the 30th overall title for the Peach Belt Conference.
Video Highlights of the Game (From NCAA.com)