Cross Creek boys basketball coach Tracey Gamble is glad he won't have to play Harlem again this season.
For the second time in two weeks, Gamble's Razorbacks held off a late Harlem rally to win. They posted an 83-76 victory Tuesday night in the Region 3-AAA play-in game at Cross Creek.
In the girls play-in game, Cross Creek shook off a slow start for a 46-33 victory over Harlem's Lady Bulldogs.
Both Cross Creek squads, which entered the tournament as the No. 6 seeds, advance to meet third seed Jefferson County in the second round Thursday night at Richmond Academy.
The Lady Razorbacks (6-18) play Jefferson County at 7 p.m., and the Cross Creek boys (6-17) meet Jefferson County's boys at 8:30 p.m.
After downing seventh-seeded Harlem on Tuesday night, Gamble said he is just glad to still be playing.
"Games like this only make you better," the first-year Cross Creek coach said. "We knew it was going to be a dogfight. I mean you (have) got a No. 6- and No. 7-seeded team trying to get into the tournament. The scoring margin was never that big for either team."
The biggest lead for either team was seven points, which Cross Creek matched twice in the third quarter before Harlem tied the game at 58 on Cory Ealy's baseline jumper heading into the final period.
Harlem (4-21) took the lead at 61-59 on two free throws from Johnny Dobbs with 5:55 left in the game before Cross Creek used a 13-5 run over the next 2:59 to build a 72-66 advantage behind seven points from leading scorer Rodney Johnson, who finished with 25 points.
The Razorbacks held Harlem without a basket in the fourth quarter until Ealy's steal and jump shot with 2:34 left in the game made it 72-68.
Harlem pulled to 79-76 with 34 seconds left on a free throw from Joe Ward but couldn't stop Cross Creek down the stretch. The Bulldogs' season ended when they lost a turnover with 13 seconds remaining while trailing 81-76.
The Bulldogs were their own worst enemy, shooting 14-of-29 from the free-throw line.
"That's been our downfall all year," Harlem coach Kim Chambers said. "We've played a bunch of close games this year, and I kept telling my kids that you can't miss that many foul shots and expect to win close games."
In the girls game, it wasn't the prettiest victory, but Cross Creek coach Lisa White took it anyway.
The Lady Razorbacks held Harlem to 1-of-6 shooting from the floor in the third quarter and forced six Harlem turnovers to gradually pull away. After Shannen Crawford's 3-point play and two free throws from Chandra Wright, the Lady Razorbacks pushed their lead to 35-23 with 6:59 left.
But Harlem cut the deficit to 38-31 on a 3-pointer from Laura Tam and a free throw from Yolanda Villeza. However, Cross Creek used an 8-2 run over the rest of the quarter to make the victory look easy.
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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