GRANITE CITY — After her Alton girls' basketball team lost to the Glenwood Titans 65-61 in overtime in a first-round game of the Class 4A Granite City Regional on Monday, senior LaJarvia Brown received a farewell note.
The note said, “Great game, LaJarvia. We will miss you next year.” The note, which was written on notebook paper, was made by the little sister of Brown’s teammate, freshman Jayla Fox-Wallace.
“It makes you want to cry,” Brown said.
Brown played her final high school basketball game on Monday. She finished with a team-high 24 points.
“I’m going to miss the team so much,” Brown said. “That’s the main thing. I can go to a gym and shoot around anytime.”
Now, Brown will be preparing for the track season. The Alton girls' track team’s first practice is on Tuesday and the first meet is scheduled for Saturday. Brown is a two-time state champion in the triple jump and will compete in track at Texas A&M University after high school.
With Monday’s loss, the Alton girls' basketball team finished its season at 3-22. The Redbirds lost their final eight games.
“Athletically, that team is a lot better than what their record indicates,” Glenwood coach Josh Crossland said.
The Titans came back from a 15-point, third-quarter deficit to knock off the Redbirds.
Glenwood improved to 17-12 and will play Belleville East at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the regional semifinals.
“We’ve grown a lot this year,” Crossland said. “We’re pretty young and we’re just finally starting to figure out how hard you have to play for the whole game to beat teams like (Alton). Belleville East is incredibly athletic and it’s going to impose a challenge for us similar to tonight where we’re going to be the slower team and we have to do things well fundamentally to have a chance.”
Senior Jewel Wagner, who is also a member of the Alton girls' track team, also played her last basketball game on Monday. She finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Brown and Wagner were the Redbirds’ top players all season. Brown led Alton in scoring at 16 points per game and Wagner averaged a team-high nine boards per contest.
“Those were two special players and they played really hard,” Alton coach Bob Rickman said. “They’re really going to be missed. They played their hearts out. I told them before the game that if you play as hard as you can, then you don’t have anything to feel bad about. I don’t think they had anything to feel bad about after that game. They played as hard as they can play.”
The Redbirds will lose only Brown and Wagner to graduation. Alton has eight freshmen and sophomores on its team.
“Next year is going to be tough because we’re going to be extremely young and we have a lot of good athletes that work hard and they want to get better,” Rickman said. “I think we’ll be OK. It’s going to be tough at first, but I think some of those young players will come along. We just have to have a strong offseason and get ready for next year.”
Alton led 14-7 after the first quarter and 27-20 at halftime. The Redbirds finished the third quarter on a 6-0 run to take a 46-31 lead.
But the Titans came back to tie it at 48-48 on a bucket by Glenwood sophomore Makenzie Bray with 1:49 left in the fourth quarter. Bray gave Glenwood a 54-52 lead after scoring a layup with 11 seconds left.
Brown knocked down two free throws with eight seconds remaining to tie the game at 54-54 and send it to overtime.
Ciara Lahr gave the Titans a 60-59 lead after hitting a 3-pointer with 1:36 left in the overtime period. Bray extended the lead to 62-59 on a bucket with one minute remaining.
Wagner cut the Titans’ lead to 62-61 with a bucket with 42 seconds left. The Redbirds had a chance to take the lead after Glenwood committed a turnover, but Brown traveled with 25 seconds remaining. She later fouled out.
Bray hit three free throws in the closing seconds and finished with a game-high 30 points.
“It’s probably the toughest loss we’ve taken this year,” said Brown, who started playing basketball when she was in sixth grade. “To be up 15 points and then, all of the sudden, lose by four is real tough especially when all of our starters had at least three to four fouls coming out of halftime. It’s really hard, but we played hard. I’m proud of how we played.”