Landrum Wins Third Straight Region Crown
What do you get when you combine an arena with a reputation for being rowdy, a full student section, a community that is passionate and supportive of their school, 2 schools that marketed packing out the place for almost a week, a couple of guys at a table in front of the student section pretending to be an “ESPN High School Gameday” crew, a pep band, a region championship on the line and a weird local sports journalist?
No, that’s not setting up a punchline for a joke (well, that last bit was me making fun of myself..). The answer is simple. It is a recipe for a fun night of high school hoops.
On an already special night where the community was introduced to their new head football coach and the seniors were recognized, the Landrum Cardinals came in undefeated in region play needing just to simply win to lock up their third consecutive region championship. In front of a packed house, they played host to the Greer Middle College Blazers – a team whose sole region loss prior to Tuesday came at the hand of Lyn Smith’s Cardinals, a 57-44 decision back on January 20th.
The Cardinals have been one of the hottest offensive teams all season long, averaging 66 points per game. They have also used their speed and aggressiveness to be a good defensive team, averaging 10 steals per game, 25 defensive rebounds, and nearly 5 blocked shots. In short, they have not had much trouble this season, with their 3 losses coming in tournaments to 5A Westside, Estill County (out of Kentucky, a team that also is an offensive juggernaut), and Shannon Forest (the #1 SCISA team who could honestly beat Dorman if they played).
The Blazers have also been a solid offensive squad all season, led by their junior Guards Musa Muriithi and Titus Shenton as well as Junior Power Forward Jack Pfister. In 24 games this season prior to tonight, they averaged nearly 58 points per game.
With a win over Landrum, Greer Middle College would have tied for 1st place, resulting in the 2 having to play a neutral site tiebreaker game. With so much on the line, getting off to a quick start and keeping the pressure on was going to be a key to victory for either team. But, with a home court advantage like “The Cage”, things were definitely in favor of the Cardinals.
Landrum was the one to come out swinging, starting on a 9-0 run behind a Bennett Edwards layup and three pointer, a basket from Mario Gonzalez, and a Marc Baker basket. The Blazers answered with a quick 6-0 burst before the Cardinals scored 4 unanswered to force a timeout. That 12-6 combined run over the first 3:45 of the game would honestly be the closest combined scoring run of the game – and that 6 point margin was as close as it ever got.
The Cardinals led wire to wire. At the 3:38 mark of the 4th quarter, the lead ballooned to a 21 point gap, which would be the largest lead of the night for the Cardinals. Still, despite that, the game was not necessarily on lock for the birds.
With the Landrum backups in over the final 3 and a half minutes, the normally high-flying Landrum offense seemingly got hit with a slingshot. They began to play sloppily and turn the ball over, and also struggled to get boards, leading to a big rally for the Blazers.
In the 4th quarter overall, GMC outscored Landrum 21-11, but that was not enough as the Cardinals completed their quest for a “Three Peat” and cut down the nets with a 69-61 victory.
Landrum was led by Franklin Davis with 26 points. Marco Gonzalez and Bennett Edwards tallied 14 each, while Mario Gonzalez logged 10.
Greer Middle College was led by Jack Pfister with 25 points. Musa Muriithi tallied 17. Titus Shenton was the lone other in double figures with 10.
Landrum ended the regular season a perfect 10-0 in region 1-2A, and 23-3 overall, while the Blazers fell to 8-2 in region and 14-11 overall.
The Cardinals will host Mid Carolina in the First Round of the Playoffs on Thursday, February 16th. GMC will host either Abbeville or Newberry on the 16th – depending on who wins the regular season finale between those 2 on Friday night.