The defense Clinton has relied upon all season was no match Monday night for a Keenan team led by an explosive freshman who has long had the rapt attention of NCAA Division I programs.
MiLaysia Fulwiley, who surpassed the 1,000 career-point plateau for the Raiders in her third varsity season in January, scored a game-high 28 points to lead Keenan to a 80-20 victory over host Clinton. Fulwiley started as a seventh- and eight-grader for Keenan and has reportedly already picked up Division I scholarship offers from South Carolina, Clemson, Ole Miss and Georgia.
“I liked our game plan,” said Clinton head coach John Gardner. “But I don’t think we executed it, obviously, enough. We talked about working the ball offensively, and I thought our first possession we worked 45 seconds off the clock and got a good shot that we wanted. Then we ran into trouble.”
From there, Keenan established itself with almost constant full-court pressure, creating turnovers and seemingly scoring at will, stretching a 10-4 lead early in the first quarter with a 13-0 run that ended the period.
The second quarter began the same way the first quarter ended. The Raiders opened the second with a 16-5 spurt and led 39-9 before Clinton’s DeShontay Watts added a bucket just before the half.
Watts finished with 12 points and Asia Boyd scored five off the bench for the Red Devils (22-5).
Clinton was riding a seven-game winning streak into Monday night’s third-round playoff game, yet had averaged just 31.3 points over its previous three contests, but the Red Devils defense had remained steady even as the offense struggled.
In Friday night’s second-round 34-28 win over visiting Pendleton, the Red Devils did not allow the Bulldogs a single field goal in the first half and jumped out to a 19-6 lead at the half. Watts led Clinton with 12 points in that game as well.
But that stalwart defense faltered against Fulwiley and the Raiders, who hit the century mark in a 100-50 playoff victory Saturday over Chapman to earn the right to face Clinton.
Fulwiley scored all of her 28 points in the first three quarters and sat out a portion of the final period with the game firmly in the Raiders’ grasp. Ashari Lewis and Tamara Davis added 18 points apiece for Keenan (18-6), which is eyeing a return to the Class 3A state finals, where they lost last year to Bishop England.
The loss also had Gardner and the Red Devils looking ahead to the 2020-21 season. With no seniors, Clinton returns its entire roster next season, including Watts, the Region 3-3A Player of the Year and an all-state selection.
“I’m super proud of them, and they all come back next year,” Gardner said of his players. “(This loss) doesn’t take away from the year that we had, and this team grew more this year than any team that I’ve had from the start to the finish. I told them in the locker room that it seems like every year that we’ve learned from the previous year, and I thought we were really ahead of schedule this year, so I’m proud of them. I just challenged them to find a way to get better in the offseason, and when we get back next year, let’s see what we can do.”