Cross' big night lifts Tigers to regional triumph

Cross' big night lifts Tigers to regional triumph

URBANA — Lauryn Cross had to make sure her team knew what a box-and-one was.

Explaining intricacies of the game has become a normal part of huddles for the young Urbana girls’ basketball team, particularly in the month since two key members of the team were ruled ineligible by the IHSA for a residency violation.

Such instruction proved highly necessary in Monday’s Class 3A Urbana Regional quarterfinal game against Rantoul.

After scoring 17 points in the first half of Monday’s 49-39 win over Eagles, Cross, a junior, became the center of Rantoul’s attention.

“I told (my teammates), ‘They’re running the box-and-one, how can I get DiamonAsia (Taylor) open in the post?’” Cross said. “Of course, freshmen and sophomores, they tense up, and just making sure they stay calm is a big part of (leading them).”

Playing in a rotation that included seven freshmen and sophomores, Cross finished with 32 points, and it’s a good thing she did.

While Cross made 11 of 29 field goals for the Tigers (2-26), the rest of the team shot 6 of 42, although Taylor was able to contribute 14 rebounds, including five on the offensive boards.

“It was great to see Lauryn compete for four quarters,” Urbana coach Chris Mennig said. “When Lauryn competes and is engaged for four quarters, she’s a solid Division I prospect.

“She has to be the calming factor. That’s a role that before was able to be a tag-team role with Arieal (Scott). And when you think that’s going to be your journey for the year and that falls on your shoulders, you have to recalibrate.”

Scott, a Duke commit, was not in the lineup for the Tigers on Monday, not long after an IHSA board meeting that sustained the suspension to Urbana’s two players amid an appeal from the school.

Scott’s 27.1 points per game have been sorely missed, as she’s sat out all of the Tigers’ games since early January. But she is still involved with the team. She practices and is at times the first player off the bench during timeouts.

“She’s like my eyes on the bench,” said Cross, who collected six offensive rebounds Monday. “She basically is like our captain. She’s like the next Chris Mennig.”

After Cross led Urbana to a 25-8 lead in the second quarter, Rantoul (9-20) reeled off an 18-7 run to make the score 32-26 midway through the third period behind seven points from Kanosha Williams.

“At halftime, I liked the way we looked with the way things had gone,” Eagles coach Jeff McKaufsky said. “I thought we were going to knock some shots down.”

The Eagles, though, made just 17 of 79 shots for the game.

In one of Tuesday’s regional semifinals, Urbana will take on Class 3A No. 5 Mattoon, which is led by 5-foot-11 Bowling Green signee Sierra Thompson. While Thompson and the Green Wave (27-1) will pose a challenge, the youthful Tigers are more worried about piecing together their offense on a given night.

“Any time you build one system based on ‘X,’ ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ as personnel and then that gets shuffled and shifted, any team is going to be rocked a little bit,” Mennig said. “Even a really good college team is going to feel the effects of that. It’s a challenge with the adversity, and they’re a young group. I think it’s even harder for them. Young ones are looking for stability. We just keep grinding away.”


Class 3A Urbana Regional pairs
(9) Urbana 49, (7) Rantoul 39

GAME 2 — (1) Mattoon vs. (9) Urbana, 6 p.m.
GAME 3 — (4) Mahomet-Seymour vs. (5) Champaign Central, 7:30 p.m.

GAME 5 — Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 7 p.m.