The South Effingham girls basketball team’s game against Glynn Academy last Tuesday was a happy occasion.
Star center Shae Leverett scored her 1,000th career point. Band members serenaded senior guard Dionna Hartfield with “Happy Birthday” at halftime. The Lady Mustangs held off a Glynn rally for a two-point win.
The next day, they were mourning the loss of one of their teammates.
Carly Anne Craven, 16, a junior at SEHS and a reserve on the basketball team, died Jan. 7.
Allisa Gordon, a basketball teammate and fellow member of the junior class, posted on Facebook, “I literally can’t stop thinking about you!! I just keep thinking you’re going to show up at practice! I love you Carly!!”
The visitation and funeral service for Craven were held Monday at First Baptist Church of Springfield. Comments in her memory have flooded social media sites in the days since her death.
“Fly high, sweetheart. All this love I’m seeing you’ll definitely be remembered,” Jobie Owen posted on Twitter.
“She was nothing short of an angel,” Russell Smith tweeted. “Fly high, Beautiful!”
The online tributes even reached Craven’s favorite singer. SEHS classmates took to Twitter to get her name noticed by singer Lana Del Rey.
To spread the word, people tweeted @LanaDelRey with the hashtag #Carly Craven. According to tweets, Craven “loved her music unconditionally” and was planning to attend one of Del Rey’s concerts this year.
Their efforts paid off, as Del Rey posted this tweet Friday night: “Rest in peace to the beautiful angel that lost her life ... Lana loves you, angel. She’s thinking of u #CarlyCraven.”
‘Do It for Carly’
South Effingham’s basketball players and coaches were together at school Wednesday afternoon when they received word Craven had died, according to head coach Missy Roddenberry.
The players all heard the news at the same time and were able to help each other deal with losing their teammate, Roddenberry said. That night, they were among the many SEHS students to attend a memorial service for Craven at Savannah Christian Church’s Effingham campus.
“This has just brought them closer together,” Roddenberry said. “I felt like we were already a family, and this has just solidified that bond.”
The Lady Mustangs had a key region game at Coffee just two days after Craven’s death. The players didn’t hesitate when Roddenberry asked if the game should go on as scheduled.
“They said, ‘Coach, we have to play. She’d want us to play,’” Roddenberry said.
The team had a good practice Thursday, according to their coach. They followed that with an inspired effort against Coffee, earning an emotional 62-49 win.
“There were tears before the game and during warm-ups, but they pulled it together,” Roddenberry said. “They played the best game they’ve played all year. It was the best therapy I think the girls could’ve had.”
The intensity and focus the Lady Mustangs played with against Coffee was a fitting tribute to Craven, according to Roddenberry. She said Craven always gave the team a pep talk before each game.
“She was one of the most fired-up people, whether she got in the game or not,” Roddenberry said. “If she played for a minute, she gave it all she had. At practice, she always said, ‘Whatever you need, Coach, I’ll do it.’”
A moment of silence was observed between the girls and boys basketball games Friday night. All of South Effingham’s games for the rest of the season will be dedicated to Craven, Roddenberry said.
Craven’s warm-up shirt was laid on an empty chair on the SEHS bench Friday night, and will continue to be for the remainder of the season. The players have written “Do It for Carly” on their shoes.
In the wake of Craven’s death, the Effingham County School System provided additional counselors to help SEHS students deal with their grief.
“Students and staff at SEHS have been very saddened by the death of Carly Craven, and the somber atmosphere at the school reflects this sadness,” said SEHS Principal Mark Winters. “There have been tears and hugs as students and staff find strength from each other to deal with this tragic loss.”