After its second defeat of Lower Richland this season - 57-51 at the Diamond Mine on Wednesday - the Eau Claire girls basketball team could not contain its excitement.
"It feels more than good," said guard Amelia Carrie, who scored a game-high 15 points. "It means we're coming up, we're on the rise."
Eau Claire (7-0) led much of the game as Lower Richland's young squad continued to adapt to the demands of being one of the state's top teams.
The Diamond Hornets kept pace with the Shamrocks early but fell behind in the final minute of the first quarter. They trailed 18-14 heading into the second.
Lower Richland's Jasmine Harrison scored seven of her team-leading 14 points in the second quarter to keep it close. Eau Claire relied on Janae Stevenson's and Eboni Ross' scoring in the post to maintain a two-point advantage at halftime.
At that point, Lower Richland coach Debbie Stroman could see her team's improvement since its first outing against Eau Claire, a 13-point loss.
"The first game, we came out in a lull. This time we focused on being intense the entire time, and we did that," Stroman said.
The Diamond Hornets knotted the score with two Harrison free throws at the start of the third quarter and pulled ahead on a jumper from Ashley Edmond.
Carrie countered with a 3-point bucket - her first from the field - but Harrison and junior post player Beatrice Williams combined for five points to put Lower Richland (4-3) ahead 36-34 with three minutes left in the quarter.
"When we tied it, and even went ahead by two, we wanted to stay there, and we felt we had another spurt in us," Stroman said. "But they got that eight-point run, and from there we just couldn't keep up."
Eau Claire's 66-second burst started with a basket from Ross, and Brandi Guinyard's steal touched off a string of Lower Richland turnovers that helped the Shamrocks extend their lead to 44-36. Lower Richland never got within five after that.
"It feels real good because we worked real hard for this day," Eau Claire coach Precious Morris Caldwell said. "We beat them once, but we knew we weren't guaranteed to beat them again. We just wanted to do what we were taught and beat them with that again if we could."
That included 11 points each from Ross and Stevenson, and three steals from Carrie.
Williams held her own against that pair, posting her second double-double of the season, with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Eau Claire 57, Lower Richland 51
EC: Brown 4, Guinyard 6, Amelia Carrie 15, Johnson 4, Hayes 8, Eboni Ross 11, Janae Stevenson 11. LR: Davis 2, Harris 2, Jasmine Harrison 14, Dennis 2, Nathan 7, Richardson 6, Edmond 5, Beatrice Williams 13.