SOPERTON — The Claxton girls erased an eight-point deficit in a thrilling semifinal win Monday night, but couldn’t make lightning strike twice.
Claxton trimmed a 25-13 halftime deficit to as few as three points in the fourth quarter before Calvary Day regrouped and held on for a 49-44 win to claim the Region 3-A tournament championship.
“Right now we’re very disappointed,” Claxton coach Laura Aziz said. “Calvary is a very good team and they played well. We didn’t play our best and we have some things that need to be fixed.”
Calvary bounced Claxton from last year’s region tournament and haunted the Tigers with the same cast of characters as Abigail Lewis (13 points) and Brittany Griffin (11) did the majority of the damage for the Cavaliers.
The Tigers (23-5) chipped away at their halftime deficit throughout the third quarter and a jumper by Nyeisha Kirkland (10 points) brought Claxton to within 37-33 early in the fourth quarter.
Ultimately, Calvary proved to be too strong.
The Cavs moved the ball well for open looks and connected on 19-of-25 free throws on the night.
Keri Brown (17 points) kept Claxton in the game with a jumper at the 1:07 mark. Jazmine Price banked in a 3 to close the gap to 47-44, but her shot came with just 11 seconds remaining and Calvary iced the game from the free throw line.
Claxton was unable to bring home a region championship, but should still be in great shape as the Class A state playoffs begin next week.
The Tigers have spent the last month at the No. 1 slot in the power rankings that will determine seeding in the state tournament. Even with the loss, Claxton figures to finish near the top of the list in the final poll and qualify to host the first two rounds of state playoff action.
Claxton will know its opening round opponent by the end of the week and will play their first game of the tournament next Monday.
“We just have to keep our heads up,” Aziz said. “We’re not happy with tonight, but we’re still playing. A lot of these girls got us to the round of eight last season and we hope that we can make another run this year.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.