The pains the Pine Creek players felt Friday night in their home gym were growing pains.
The extremely young Eagles fought valiantly, but ultimately fell 49-47 to sixth-seeded Dakota Ridge in a second-round 5A basketball playoff game.
No. 3 Pine Creek - which starts four freshmen and a sophomore - is easily the youngest team in the state, and with so many players competing in their first playoff game, the nerves got to them.
"I think we definitely showed some youth tonight; we came out in the first half hesitant and didn't attack the basket," Pine Creek coach Kelley Stewart said. "This will help us down the line, and it'll be good to have a loss like this under our belt. Our youth was a factor down the stretch."
Pine Creek - which trailed by five points two different times in the fourth quarter and battled back to lead - held a two-point lead with less than a minute left in the game.
However, the experience gap between the Dakota Ridge (18-7) upperclassmen and the Pine Creek (21-3) underclassmen was evident in the final 60 seconds. Senior Jae Ferrin converted a three-point play to give Dakota Ridge a 45-44 lead.
After a bad turnover for Pine Creek and two Dakota Ridge free throws, Pine Creek's Taylor Cross made a huge 3-pointer to tie the game at 47 with 20 seconds left. Ferrin would prove her mettle on the next possession, driving to the rim and scoring the winning basket with eight seconds left.
"When you're a senior, there's a competitive edge over a team that's so young," said Ferrin, who scored a game-high 18 points. "We felt like if we kept it close, our experience would win us the game."
Pine Creek had two great looks at a game-tying basket in the final five seconds, but couldn't get either to fall.
It was a tough way for a successful season to end for the co-5A Metro League champions, especially for Cross - one of the two seniors on the squad.
"This was the best season I had here in my four years, and it was truly incredible," said Cross, who led Pine Creek with 12 points. "We surprised everyone, and ourselves, and we were excited coming into this game. We came up short, but I'm so proud of this team, and I'll be excited to come back from college to watch these girls play next season."
A roster comprised of half freshmen should spell success for Pine Creek for several years to come. Stewart appreciates what this team was able to do and looks forward to even better years ahead.
"I think we overachieved and I don't think anybody - including us - thought we could do what we did this season," Stewart said. "This is a great group of girls, and I'm hoping this team will be very dangerous in the years to come."
Freshman Jade Odom scored 12 points for Pine Creek and sophomore Jayne Lydiatt added seven points and five rebounds. Lauren Wood had 14 points and eight rebounds for Dakota Ridge, while Caitlin Navratil added 15.