HUNTSVILLE – If the La Vega Lady Pirates continue at this pace, they may just outrun everyone all the way to the state championship.
At the very least, they’re going to get their chance to try.
The third-ranked Lady Pirates zipped out to another quick lead and never let up in taking down No. 4 Tatum, 58-32, in the Class 4A Region III final Saturday at Sam Houston State’s Johnson Coliseum.
It marks the third straight state appearance for La Vega (33-2), which won it all in 2014 before falling in the state semifinals last season.
As they’ve done so often this year, the Lady Pirates dialed up another blowout win Saturday. They’ve won their five playoff games now by an average of 27 points, turning elite teams like Mexia, Navasota and Tatum into mere speed bumps on the path to state.
“I think after district, we’ve had to step things up quite a bit in terms of our intensity,” La Vega coach Jeff Jefferson said. “Once we got to that Mexia game, we took it to a higher level. We kind of cruised through district, but we knew we needed good workouts for the playoffs. Before that Mexia game, the focus was much better, and our whole demeanor changed going into the regional tournament.”
Calveion “Juicy” Landrum scored a team-high 21 points, poked away four steals and distributed five assists for La Vega, and was named the regional tournament MVP following the victory. The senior Baylor signee has proven herself as one of the state’s elite guards for several seasons now, but Jefferson thinks Landrum has raised her level of play as well in recent weeks.
“I think she’s gotten herself in better shape,” Jefferson said. “We schedule tough, so she sees a lot of 5A and really good 4A schools that push her to be better. We’ve seen double teams, box-and-ones, everything. … I had to create some stuff to fit her game, going back to some plays I used to put in for Katrina Price. Juicy and I, our relationship has really grown, and she’s taken her game to the next level.”
But nobody gets to the state tournament alone. Sophomore post Ta’Naiya Norwood hit 7 of 11 from the floor and scored 16 points, joining Landrum on the all-tournament team. Odision Miles hit for 10 points, six assists and two steals. Jefferson also praised the “ball-hawking” defense of Shekenia Green, who turned in seven points and a team-leading eight rebounds.
La Vega’s defense proved impenetrable for Tatum much of the way. La Vega limited the Lady Eagles to less than 10 points in three of the four quarters, and built a 28-13 lead by the half.
“It was just total team defense,” Jefferson said. “Our team has bought in, realizing that it takes defense to win a championship. We’ve had a lot of early morning workouts at 6 in the morning, and there’s just been total team commitment. It’s been a blessing, and I’m just glad we get to (go to state) again.”
Joining La Vega at state will be Wylie, Argyle and Liberty Hill. The Lady Pirates will play at either 1:30 or 3 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals at the Alamodome in San Antonio, but won’t learn their opponent until the UIL releases the schedule Sunday.