RICHTON PARK | As a potential game-tying 3-point try from Rich South's Tierra Webb caught the left side of the rim and dipped in past the equator before lipping out to the right, Crete-Monee's Marsha Howard watched in horror.
"I was thinking, 'Please don't go in,'" she said. "'I don't have any time for overtime.'"
The Times No. 3 Warriors need not have worried. None of the Stars' eight fourth-quarter field goal attempts went in, and Crete-Monee managed an improbable 43-40 Southland Conference win despite scoring just 17 second-half points.
"You've got to appreciate a conference win," Warriors coach Christina Cobbins said. "Especially against a team like Rich South, a team we haven't beaten in probably 10 years."
Actually, it was only six.
"The last time they beat us, we called them the Magnificent Seven," South coach Brian Mays said.
That was 2007-08, when Crete's roster was just seven players deep, and the Warriors stunned Hillcrest to win a regional title. This year's Warriors (13-5, 5-0) has already beaten the Hawks, and with Thursday's win took command of the Southland race.
South (10-7, 2-2) has long dominated the conference, though Bloom last year won the title that is now Crete's to lose.
"And I told my girls, that's a young team," Mays said. "They're coming back — and they're going to look to get better, so we need to get better."
Based on Thursday's efforts, both teams have room to improve.
Though the Warriors got an impressive performance from Howard (10 points, 14 rebounds), and Alexia DeBose paced them with 11 points, they struggled against a South press throughout the second half, committing seven turnovers in the third quarter alone.
They were able to survive an eight-point quarter thanks to a five-point halftime edge built on a first quarter spent pounding the ball inside and a second quarter in which sophomore guard Lindzy Cox canned two 3-pointers and scored all nine of her points for the night.
"We weren't executing our sets the right way," Cox said of Crete's problems handling the Stars' pressure. "But we stayed together."
And Howard's work on the glass finally paid a direct dividend. At the 3:11 mark of the fourth quarter, after chasing down a teammate's missed 3-point attempt, Howard connected on a short jumper from the lane for the game's final points.
The teams combined to go 0-of-8 from the floor and 0-of-3 from the line the rest of the way, with five turnovers.
"When we're not doing great on offense, we focus on our defense," Howard said, "on getting rebounds, on pushing it."
Ashley Henry added 10 points for Crete. South's Webb led all scorers with 12 points, and teammates Tierney Lockett (11 points) and Dasia Evans (10) joined her in double-figures.