Cloudland was unable to continue a spectacular postseason run on Thursday.
The Lady ‘Landers were unable to match Wayne County offensively in a 51-28 decision in the first round of the Class 1A State Tournament inside the Murphy Center.
“This team really came together as a family this year,” Cloudland Head Coach Matt Birchfield said. “We lost six seniors from last year’s state tournament team. These kids were coming off of the bench last year. We had to overcome things early because we were young and we play in a tough conference, but these kids grew every night, they came together and I’m proud of them.”
Cloudland jumped out early with a 7-4 lead just over two minutes into the game when Ryan Turbyfill got a second-chance opportunity and turned it into a three-pointer.
Three-pointers from the Lady Cats’ Lauren Bryant and Jacqueline Keaton followed as Wayne County swung in front 12-7. Michaela Gallian then hit from deep along the left wing, and Bryant put Wayne County firmly in front after one quarter of action when she nailed a half-court shot at the buzzer that made it 18-8.
The Lady Wildcats were 5-for-7 from three-point land in the first quarter and finished the day shooting 47 percent from behind the arc.
“We struggled from the perimeter and they made some big-time threes,” Burchfield said. “I think it came down to offensively we couldn’t make a shot and they shot it very well.”
Cloudland got the second quarter started with Saharra McKinney driving the lane and dishing to Ella Benfield for a layup.
Wayne County countered with a 9-0 run in which Gallian and Cambree Camfield both hit from deep to take a 27-11 lead.
The Lady Wildcats used the size of Blair Baugus in the paint to turn away every attempt Cloudland had at attacking the basket, and held the Lady Landers without a field goal for the final 7:27 of the first half. Baugus finished the day with five blocks and three steal to go with her 10 points on offense.
“They were really packing it in the middle,” McKinney said. “They were leaving us open to shoot, and we took good shots. We just couldn’t get them to fall.”
Savanna McClain finished out the first half with four points for Wayne County as it took a 31-13 lead into the break.
In a low-scoring third quarter, Cloudland was able to keep pace with Karah Fields knocking down a pair of triples, but it was not able to put a dent in the lead as Wayne County finished the period leading 40-21.
McClain started the fourth quarter with a triple and lay in to push Wayne County’s lead 45-22 with 3:52 left to play.
Baugus scored on a putback and then made two at the charity stripe to give the Lady Wildcats their biggest lead at 49-24 before they went on to capture their 51-28 win.
The Landers only graduate two seniors from this team, Fields and Taylor Hicks, and Birchfield hopes that his team can take some positives away from their journey to the state tournament.
“We are playing some sophomores and some juniors, and we have a lot coming back,” Birchfield said. “We have a lot to learn from today. We have to learn what we can do to be better as individuals and as a team. We got some kids experience here at the state tournament, and hopefully, that motivates them to get to work when we get back home.”
Benfield and Fields led Cloudland with eight points each. Izabella Christman scored five points, while Turbyfill added three points.
Chloe Watson and McKinney each tallied two points.
Bryant led all scorers with 15 points while McClain and Baugus each had 10 points for Wayne County.
Photos and story by Tate Russell (@Tate_Russell)