Urbana's Cross shines as Rantoul can’t find the bucket in regional loss

URBANA — After having battled Urbana in two games this season, Rantoul girls basketball coach Jeff McKaufsky knew who the Tigers’ main threat would be offensively Monday night.

But even being aware of how dangerous Lauryn Cross is couldn’t stop the Urbana guard from shredding the Eagles’ defense for 32 points in Urbana’s 49-39 win of Monday’s Class 3A Urbana Regional quarterfinal game.

After putting up 17 points in the first half, the Eagles attempted a box-and-one on the Tigers’ junior, but to no avail.

“We knew Lauryn is their main player, and we struggled with her the first half with communication (and) picking her up,” McKaufsky said. “We played a lot of zone in the first half and went more man in the second half. We really struggled to communicate with where she was because we talked about picking her up at all times and getting the ball out of her hands. We didn’t do that how we had planned or how we had wanted to.”

Nine-seeded Urbana (2-26) jumped out to a 25-8 lead before the Eagles battled back with an 18-7 run — led by Kanosha Williams’ seven points — to pull the deficit to within 32-26 midway through the third quarter.

“At halftime, I liked the way we looked with the way things had gone,” McKaufsky said. “We didn’t have anybody in foul trouble. I liked where we were. I thought we were going to knock some shots down. Then in late third ... it started to slip away because we were continuing to miss good looks.”

The seventh-seeded Eagles (9-20) struggled throughout the night to convert shots, finishing 17-of-79 from the field.

“We’ve got to put the ball in the hoop,” McKaufsky said. “We had some good looks, outside and inside, but struggled to put it in the hoop tonight.”

For McKaufsky and the Eagles, it was a disappointing end to a season that began with promise.

After struggling with a 2-27 record two years ago and a 9-21 finish last season, there was hope that a class filled with five seniors would bring with it a turnaround.

After beginning the year 3-2 at the the Comet Classic, including a nearly epic comeback in the third-place game against an Oakwood team enjoying its best season in years, the Eagles took down Fisher to start 4-3.

But Rantoul struggled after that win, losing 13 of the next 15 games. The Eagles rallied, though, at the end of the season and were playing their best over the last few weeks, including a 61-47 win over Unity on Senior Night on Jan. 30.

“We had some rough stretches,” McKaufsky said. “We had some higher expectations than this coming in with quite a bit of seniors. We got off to a decent start then hit a real rough patch, but I thought the last three and a half weeks we’ve really been playing our best basketball.

“We’ve been playing pretty good but just picked the wrong time to have a bad game.”

Anthony Zilis contributed to this report.

Contact Zack Carpenter at zcarpenter@rantoulpress.com and on Twitter @ZCarp11.

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