The team with a different shade of red in its uniforms did most of the cheering and smiling, but Cross Creek coach Kim Schlein still clapped and senior Ashleigh Outler flashed a grin.
Though Wednesday night’s 51-41 loss to South Effingham in the Region 3-AAAA girls title game at Butler meant the Lady Razorbacks wouldn’t repeat as region champs, Cross Creek isn’t done playing just yet.
The Lady Razorbacks (22-3) will be home Friday night in the first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
“You’ve gotten here two years in a row,” Schlein said about what she told her team after the loss. “I’m disappointed, yes, but I’m also proud we made it this far. And it’s not over.”
On Wednesday, Outler had 16 points and grabbed 18 rebounds and briefly gave Cross Creek a late lead at 41-40. Using impressive body control, Outler scored despite falling backward away from the hoop.
After that, however, it was all Lady Mustangs.
South Effingham avenged the previous season’s defeat in the region championship game by getting the last 11 points of the game.
Three players reached double figures as the Lady Mustangs won rebounding battles on the offensive end and owned the free-throw line. While Cross Creek missed five of its nine attempts, South Effingham shot 20-for-24. Tianna Germain and Machala Raymonville combined for 33 points.
Before the deficit grew in the closing moments, Cross Creek and South Effingham stayed close throughout. The gap never got larger than six in the first half, when the Lady Razorbacks led 18-12.
But South Effingham didn’t stop driving or shooting 3s, even when they weren’t falling. The Lady Mustangs’ efforts paid off late in the first half, with Raymonville making a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute to hand South Effingham a 27-24 lead halfway through.
Now Cross Creek has to regroup for Friday.
“We have a long road to go, and they’re going to have to work hard to get it done,” Schlein said.