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Landrum Girls Come Up Short In Title Game

The Landrum Lady Cardinals had quite a historic run throughout the 2023-2024 season. The team featured a lot of talent from a relatively youthful age range. They had just 2 seniors in guard Savannah Brown, who became one of just a handful of 1,000 point scorers in Cardinal history back in January, and guard/forward Sydney Price. Aside from them, they had 4 sophomores, 1 junior, and an 8th grader in Emalynn Bright. 


Landrum had lost just three games on the season – one to 5A power Gaffney back during the Battle at the Border, another to 3A Blue Ridge, and just 1 in region play at the hands of Blacksburg. Following that Blacksburg loss, the Cards won 14 straight games en route to the region 1-2A title, the 2A Upperstate championship, and their first state championship game appearance since the 1975 1A title game – where they lost to Bowman. 


It goes without saying that this team was looking to finish their historic season by rewriting history with a championship. But, their road to winning it would be their toughest battle since they took on Gaffney. Landrum would have to beat an Andrew Jackson squad that was 26-4 on the season and featured a trio of shooters in Tamia Watkins, who led the team with an average of 26.4 points per game and 12.7 rebounds, Ayona Alexander (18.6 ppg, 12.3 boards), and Ni’Yona Asbelle (14.6 ppg, 5.4 RPG). They would need to get off to a hot start and play their cleanest and best defense. 


You could not have asked for a more ideal start. The Cardinals came out of the gate on a 6-0 run, starting with a Kylie Fortner layup at the 6:45 mark. That run was answered with a 7-6 run from Andrew Jackson, making for a 12-7 Cardinal lead as the game went to a media timeout with 3:50 to play. 


At the end of the opening 8 minutes, Landrum held a narrow 21-18 lead, and about 5 minutes later, that lead was gone and then some as the Volunteers went on an 8-2 burst to go up 28-23, never looking back from there. That offensive push was aided by some fantastic defense by AJHS, as they absolutely smothered the Cardinals, double teaming and preventing them from getting lanes to the rim. They also forced a lot of turnovers, jumping passing lanes and coming away with 3 of Landrum’s inbound attempts. All in all, Landrum went 4 for 12 from the field in the 2nd quarter, trailing at the half 37-30. 


The Cardinals’ offensive success this season has come when Savannah Brown and Kaylee Cortez have both been on. Ultimately, aside from turnovers (Landrum had 20 leading to 21 Andrew Jackson points) and inability to stop the duo of Tamia Watkins and Ayona Alexander, that was a key difference in this one. 


The Vols limited Brown to just 9 points on 4-6 shooting from the field in the first half. On the flipside, Kaylee Cortez was one of the main reasons Landrum was able to lead for most of the first half, with 9 points in that span, all coming in the first quarter. She finished the night with 12 points, which was enough to make her the team’s 2nd-leading scorer. Those 2 flip-flopped in the 2nd half, as Brown logged 10 points in the final 16 minutes on 5 of 6 from the field while Cortez scored just 3 on 1 for 7 shooting. 


Not to be lost in the discrepancies between halves for Cortez and Brown is the effort from Sophomore Guard Kylie Fortner. She was also a key part of the Cards’ first half success, starting off 3 for her first 4 and finishing the half with 8 points. She went 4-6 over the final 2 quarters to tie with Brown as the team’s leading scorer with 19 points. Emalynn Bright and Sydney Price were the only others to put any points on the board, each tallying 5. 


In the end, the duo of Watkins and Alexander accounted for 46 of Andrew Jackson’s points – 26 from Watkins to lead the team, as the Volunteers claimed the state championship with a 78-60 victory. 


Despite the hard-fought loss, Landrum finished their campaign as the 2A state runner-up with a 27-4 overall record.

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