With a 20-5 regular season record, it’s hard to point out weaknesses of Clayton Varsity Girls’ Basketball team.
Considering the lackluster crowd size at many of their games – mainly filled with parents and some students – it’s arguable that the varsity squad could improve their fan base.
But for the Class 4 District Championship game, with the number two seed CHS girls’ varsity team against the number one seed Miller Career Academy, the stands looked different.
On March 2, Clayton High School’s Stuber Gymnasium was packed.
Students, families, friends and staff filled the gym to see the Greyhound squad do something that CHS hasn’t seen since 1988: win a district’s championship.
And the Greyhounds did exactly that.
In a 49-34 win, the girls’ varsity team brought home a win CHS has waited 29 years to receive.
For senior forward Pierce Sams, who led the game in 18 points, eight rebounds and four steals, and has averaged 20.00 points per game this season, this win serves as evidence of the dedication the varsity team has put into their success.
“This win feels amazing because we really fought for this, not only tonight, but all season,” Sams said.
Although the final score reflects a significant gap between the Greyhounds score and Miller’s, the game did not start out that way.
At the end of the first quarter, the Greyhounds led the game 8-6.
For senior point guard Brooke Jones, the closeness of the game in its first eight minutes added to the intensity on the court.
“It was insanely intense. We could tell the team was getting really riled up,” Jones, who scored nine points and had 11 rebounds in the game, said. “Our mindset was to play our game at our speed and keep playing for each other.”
One of the hardest battles for the Hounds in this game was fending off Miller’s hard pressed defense.
“Miller has great defensive players,” Sams said. “We just battled them as best as we could.”
Steve McFall, CHS Girls’ Varsity Basketball head coach, believes that his players increased their playing abilities as the hard-fought game continued.
“I think our kids got better as we went on. We rose to the challenge,” he said.
In the second quarter, the Greyhound’s picked up momentum, ending the first half with a 20-12 lead. “Throughout this hard game we kept our heads together,” Sams said.
Last season, the Greyhounds lost in the Districts championship, taking second place to the Lady Rams of MICDS.
To get to the championship game again this year, the Greyhound’s faced Normandy in the first round of districts, beating them 82-1 on Feb. 25. In the Class 4 District semifinals, the Greyhounds beat number three seed Soldan 75-52.
Having her senior season include a district’s championship is a source of emotion for Jones, a four-year varsity starter for the Greyhounds.
“It is really emotional. We knew we could win this game. It was all about our will-power and how much we wanted it. I am overjoyed right now,” Jones said.
Adding to Jones’ joy is the support the Greyhounds team received in the district’s championship game.
“I felt like the entire school was with us here and cheering for us,” Jones said. “This win was for more than just our team, it was for all of Clayton.”
Sams has her eyes on taking her team farther into playoffs.
“I am happy for us. I am proud, and hope that we can make it to State in Columbia,” Sams said.
For McFall, his pride in winning this championship in his third year as the head coach lies in the strength of his team.
“It’s them. It’s the kids, they played great. We had an idea that we could stop [Miller]. We thought defensively that we could cause them some problems and we did. They’ve got to be able to play for me to be able to do my part,” McFall said. “They played tonight. I just felt like we could get it done and we did.”
The Greyhounds will face off with Lutheran South March 7 at 8 pm at Parkway West High School at they continue in the MSHAA State Tournament.
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