After enjoying a four-win week, Meridian Yellowjacket boys basketball team looks to final tune-up in preparation for District 20-1A competition
With just one week left to prepare for District 20-1A competition, the Meridian Yellowjacket boys basketball team took strides in the right direction last week. After opening the week with a resounding 61-27 road victory over Penelope Dec. 6, the Jackets (7-3) captured third place in the Santo Tournament by winning three of five matchups Dec. 8-10.
In their final tune-up games this week, Meridian will visit Bruceville-Eddy Tuesday, Dec. 13 at 7:15 p.m. before traveling to Cranfills Gap to take on the Lions at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16. The Jackets will open district play on the road at Walnut Springs next Monday, Dec. 19 at 7:15 p.m.
Against Penelope last Tuesday, Meridian jumped out to a commanding 22-2 first quarter lead and never looked back. Sophomore Matty Jones led the Jackets with 18 points, senior Camron Sheffer pulled down a team-high nine rebounds, senior John Bernal came up with nine steals and senior Brady Taylor dished out three assists.
“I felt really good about how we played against Penelope,” Meridian boys basketball head coach Grant Schur said. “Going into that game, I really felt like that would be a tight matchup, and we got away from them pretty quickly.”
With the momentum of the dominating win carrying over into the Santo Tournament, Meridian opened with a convincing 69-26 victory over Hico on Thursday as four Jackets scored in double figures. Once again, Meridian jumped out to a commanding 36-13 advantage in the first half for the win, led by senior Braxton Allen with 19 points, Bernal with 18, Jones with 14 and sophomore Jordan Sheffer with 10. Taylor pulled down a team-high eight rebounds, Bernal dished out four assists, and Jones came up with 10 steals.
Despite struggling to score in losses to Huckabay, 70-24, and Lingleville, 36-28, the Jackets responded with wins over Sidney, 50-28, and the host Santo Wildcats, 54-51, to take third place in the tournament.
“I was proud of the way we competed in the Santo tournament,” Schur said. “Our guys play really hard. We found a way to win some games when our shots had left us. Friday and Saturday was probably the worst we have shot all year. There are going to be times that happens. But hopefully, we got that out of our system this weekend, and we can get back on track with a normal schedule and week.”
With district opening Dec. 19, the Jackets expect to battle with Covington, Morgan, Blum, Iredell, Walnut Springs and Kopperl for one of the district’s four playoff berths.
“Looking at scores and trying to compare the teams in our district, I really can’t say at this point yet where everyone in our district fits,” Schur said. “Truthfully, I feel like every team in our district can compete with one another, and it is going to be a fun district season. I would like to think that we are at the top of our district race. But like I said, I think everyone can compete with everyone on any given night.”
While inheriting a squad loaded with five seniors, Schur has woven five sophomores and a junior into the mix in his first season at Meridian. And so far, he likes the results.
“I think we are making great strides so far this season,” Schur said. “There are obviously some things I continue to see that we need to improve on.
“Our biggest strength is our athleticism. We aren’t real huge, but we have solid overall height, we have a deep bench, and we are athletic. We’ve got to get better at finishing around the rim, working together defensively. Our athleticism is also a weakness. We sometimes rely too much on our athleticism to do some things. Really, I think that got us beat Saturday morning against Lingleville, just from how many second and third opportunities we gave them offensively. We’ve relied on out jumping too many people and didn’t get into position to rebound.
“Overall as a program, we have a ways to go. But our kids are seeing those things also. We have really good team chemistry and leadership, they aren’t satisfied with where we are at right now.”
The Jackets moved into December and toward the holiday season facing a schedule loaded with key non-district matchups and challenging tournaments. And it proved to be just what the up-and-coming program needed to get ready for District 20-1A competition.
“We knew the month of December was going to be big for us,” Schur said. “We had some really good teams coming up on the schedule and in two tournaments. I’m was excited to see how we would handle that, and I think it will gave us a really good idea of where we are at going into district.”
While working to bring his players up-to-speed in his new system, Schur had the Jackets face an abbreviated schedule during the first two weeks of the season. But after winning their last three straight, the Jackets appear ready for primetime, especially after a convincing 72-47 victory over Cornerstone Christian Academy last Tuesday at Yellowjacket Gymnasium.
After Meridian jumped out to a commanding 22-11 first period lead, Cornerstone battled back in the second to pull within four points going into intermission. But the Jackets outscored Cornerstone, 30-14, in the third period to pull away and never look back.
“The varsity did a great job against Cornerstone Christian,” Schur said. “We started the first quarter really well, but then in the second quarter, we lost a lot of our momentum. A lot of that I have to give credit to Cornerstone for changing what they were doing to us. But some of it was just on us.”
“Really, as bad as the second quarter was, I wanted to see how we would handle that as a team. And I was really proud of our guys for continuing to fight through some struggles and go in at the half up by four. I was even more proud of our guys for how they took the halftime adjustments and really went on a run in the third quarter, extending the lead to 20.”
Allen, senior Camron Shaffer and sophomore Matty Jones led Meridian in scoring with 13 points apiece followed by Bernal with 12 points, five assists and eight steals. On the boards, Allen led the Jackets with 10 rebounds, followed by Sheffer with seven and sophomore Jesus Martinez with six, while seniors Junior Rodriguez and Dustan Bowers added six points each.
“I think that game really showed that we are a very balanced team, and complement each other well,” Schur said. “We had three guys with 13 points, another with 12, and everyone that played scored. Statistically, we have guys contributing in all kinds of ways for us, and they have all bought in on their role to help the team.”
Photos by WENDY OROZCO
©2022 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.