By Kyle Parmley
CLAY — Clay-Chalkville will return to Jacksonville for the first time since 2008, when the Lady Cougars were the Class 6A runner-up.
The Lady Cougars (25-7) dispatched Huffman 65-55 on Monday night in sub-regional play to punch their ticket to the regional round of the Class 6A playoffs behind another dominant performance from do-it-all senior guard Kristian Hudson.
“We’re looking forward to going to Jacksonville,” Clay-Chalkville head coach Justin Haynie said. “But we don’t want to be one-and-done. We want to keep playing.”
VIDEO: Watch head coach Justin Haynie talk about the win over Huffman.
Hudson contributed greatly on both sides of the floor, with an outstanding stat line of 28 points, four rebounds, five steals and a pair of assists.
The senior single-handedly thwarted a pair of Huffman runs in the second and fourth quarters. To start the second period, Hudson beat her opponent three consecutive trips down the floor and scored in the lane. She did the same to stop a 6-0 Lady Vikings run midway through the fourth, scoring on a runner in the paint. She also knocked down the only 3-pointer of the night for Clay-Chalkville.
“She does what she normally does. She plays like Kristian normally plays, which is really well,” Haynie said.
The Lady Vikings attempted to press Clay-Chalkville early, but had no success whatsoever. That, coupled with great execution on both sides of the floor, allowed the Lady Cougars to jump out to an 18-7 lead after the first quarter. Clay-Chalkville dominated the early portions of the second quarter, before Huffman closed to within 12 at halftime.
Huffman (16-11) tried to sneak back into the game late in the fourth quarter, whittling a 17-point lead down to 10 in the final minutes, but couldn’t get enough stops to make the Lady Cougars sweat.
“We knew it would be a tough battle and it was,” Haynie said. “I told the girls, ‘They’re not going to quit.’ And they didn’t. They fought the whole game. We knew they could score points in bunches and that we had to keep scoring all night. Luckily, we were able to do that.”
Senior T.J. Thomas did the dirty work despite battling foul trouble for much of the first half. She ripped down five of her seven rebounds in the third quarter, and finished the night with seven points and two blocked shots.
“I’m more of a defensive player,” Thomas said. “I box out and get rebounds and just do whatever it takes to help the team win.”
As a backcourt partner to Hudson, Raven Omar put together a nice evening as well, scoring 15 points and adding on three rebounds, a couple assists, and a steal. Daffany Lewis played a solid game, scoring eight points and pulling down three boards.
Shaforia Kines led the way for the Huffman offense, scoring 17 points on the night, with 11 of those coming in the final quarter. Jayla Crawford added nine points, and Cierra Morris hit a pair of deep threes to score eight points.
Clay-Chalkville now heads to Jacksonville State University for regional play, where the Lady Cougars will face Fort Payne on Friday at 9 a.m. for an early tipoff. If they advance, they will take on the winner of Shades Valley and Albertville.
“We haven’t been to Jacksonville in a long time,” Thomas said. “It means a lot. It’s my senior year, so I want to go all the way.”