Budding Cross lifts Urbana girls past Centennial

Budding Cross lifts Urbana girls past Centennial

CHAMPAIGN — They started with the feet.

Urbana junior Lauryn Cross had a tendency to set them in an uneven fashion, so new teammate Arieal Scott, a Duke commit who transferred to Urbana last summer, made sure her new backcourt mate’s feet were set before Cross launched shots after practice last summer.

Then, they moved on to the hips. Cross’ needed to be squared to the basket. Finally, they worked on the motion of her hands and arms, and Scott imparted a few secrets she’s gleaned over the years as she’s become one of the top shooting prospects in the Class of 2017.

Day after day, they worked on Cross’ shot, and they still do, traversing across the hall to the auxiliary gym after practice for nearly an hour each night.

“Arieal has done an amazing job making me believe in myself,” Cross said. “I can actually shoot, and I can actually score.”

That confidence shone through Thursday.

With a Duke assistant in the crowd at Centennial to watch Scott, who committed to the Blue Devils earlier this school year, Cross led the way during a second-half surge on her way to 22 points in a 66-47 Tigers win.

“She’s always been a pass-first point guard, but now she’s not overthinking when she needs to pass, and she’s actually scoring,” Scott said of Cross, who knocked down four three-pointers against the Chargers (3-8). “For us to win, she needs to score. ... She needs to know that she doesn’t need to pass to everybody else and just get assists.”

One play in particular Thursday exemplified Cross’ development. Midway through the third quarter with the ball on the left side of the court, she dribbled through her legs, took a step back and nailed a three-pointer.

“She wouldn’t have done that earlier on,” said Scott, who scored 16 of her 20 points in the first half. “She would have come out with it and tried to pass it.”

Before Cross poured in 19 points in the final three quarters for Urbana (7-3), Centennial controlled the game.

Faith Ayodele, a 6-foot-3 center, scored 10 points in the first quarter as Centennial took a 16-11 lead. Ayodele finished with 18 points and Shoentera Russell added 17, but Chargers coach Jeff Carleton wished his bigs were given more of an opportunity to become a major factor late in the game.

“I feel like we had a great opportunity to win that game, and we went away from what was working,” Carleton said. “We had a huge size advantage, but it’s a process. I knew it was going to be a process when I (took the job) last year, and we’re learning to manage a basketball game. We’re getting there. They would have beaten us by 30 last year with that team.”

Down the stretch Thursday, Cross showed why Urbana coach Chris Mennig is confident she’ll garner a college scholarship, taking over the game at times. And he knows her evolution is far from finished.

“You’ll just continue to see more growth (during her junior and senior seasons),” Mennig said.
The impetus for that growth is Urbana’s new star. And Mennig is looking forward to seeing his team’s culture grow as Scott’s work ethic continues to trickle down.

“Any Division I athlete in any sport, if you’ve ever spent any time around them, they’re programmed differently,” Mennig said. “They’re just different kids. They’d rather work on their game than go to the movies or go to the mall with their friends.

“With that regard, when you add someone into that space that is programmed a little odd that way, she’s raising the level of competitiveness of those around her and the care for their craft.”

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