GREENVILLE - The second heartbreak was twice as crushing for Eau Claire.
The Shamrocks' 25-game winning streak ended Saturday with a 52-49 loss to Southside in the Class 2A semifinal at the Bi-Lo Center.
The Shamrock's last loss - a last-second, one-point defeat to Strom Thurmond - ended their 2008-09 season in the third round of the playoffs. This season, the redemption-minded Shamrocks dominated their league, winning all but one game by double digits.
Against Southside (25-4), though, an off-balance Eau Claire fell behind early.
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"You have to come ready to play and you can't let the refs take you out of the game, and that's what happened to us early," coach Precious Caldwell said.
Senior post Janae Stevenson picked up two fouls in the first 45 seconds and went to the bench, while Southside went to the line three times in the first three minutes, taking a 12-6 lead after four minutes.
"Once you get into foul trouble with your bigs, that were so much of what got you here, it makes things much harder," Caldwell said.
Eau Claire trailed 31-18 at halftime.
Playing small, the Shamrocks were able to take away the Tigers' outside shot. But with Stevenson in foul trouble and Eboni Ross alone in the post, the Shamrocks had trouble running their inside-outside power game.
Ross had five points and four rebounds to start a 13-6 third quarter run for the Shamrocks. Then Stevenson reentered and the game changed. Ross and Stevenson combined for nine points and, with 6:21 left to play, the Shamrocks had trimmed their deficit to 39-37. With 5:09 to go, Ross turned to the basket and put up a short jumper to tie the score at 41.
"The girls fought hard in the end. We got down by too much and it took a lot to get back, it's not something we've had to do, but I'm proud of them for doing it," Caldwell said.
Trailing by one in the final minute, Eau Claire could not get ahead. The Shamrocks were 2-of-6 from the line in that period. Southside was 6-of-8.
"Like the story of David and Goliath, David had confidence that he could slay the giant," Tigers coach Lamont Wakefield said. "I told the girls that's what we've got to do - have confidence in what we do. It paid off."
From the start, the Tigers matched Eau Claire's speed in the zone, while the gun-shy Shamrocks were scoreless for seven minutes between the first and second quarters.
Southside scored 13 points on free throws in the half; Eau Claire went to the line twice in the final minute of the half, with Ross going 2-for-3.
Ross led the Shamrocks as they tried to fire things up in the second, scoring eight points - six in the final minute -that helped cut a deficit that reached 18 points.
"This was one step closer," Caldwell said. "We'll be back."
E: Eboni Ross 21, Janae Stevenson 16, Guinyard 4, Carrie 4, Johnson 2, Davis 2. S: Yoko Mosley 14, Jasmine Franklin 12, Chelsea Walker 12, Weston 9, Young 4, Guzman 1.