in Girls Basketball

After opening District 20-1A competition with loss at Blum, Meridian Lady Jacket girls basketball team bounces back by posting back-to-back district wins

Bouncing back from a disappointing District 20-1A loss, the Meridian Lady Jacket girls basketball team quickly rebounded to establish itself as a team to be reckoned with this season.

Winning back-to-back games in dominating fashion, the Lady Jackets ran past the Morgan Lady Eagles, 66-39, at home last Friday before burying the Walnut Springs Hornets, 44-9, on the road Monday evening heading a nine-day break for the Christmas holidays.

“Our girls continue to improve in understanding our man-to-man schemes,” Meridian girls basketball first-year head coach Matthew Butler said. “Holding Walnut Springs to only two field goals in an entire game is something we can take pride in and continue to build upon. I’m very proud of our girls’ effort and their coachability.”

The Lady Jackets (2-1 in district, 5-14 overall) built a commanding 30-5 advantage by halftime and shutout Walnut Spring in the fourth period to seal their second straight district win. Sophomore Journey Stauffer led the Meridian with 14 points, followed by junior Canyon Stauffer with nine, senior Erika Maldonado with eight and junior Eve Dirske with six points and a team-high six rebounds.

After taking the next nine days off for the holidays, Meridian will return to action with a road game at Waco Live Oak Charter at 1 p.m. Dec. 29.

Against Morgan last Friday, Dirkse poured in a season-high 25 points as the Lady Jackets dominated the Lady Eagles from the opening tip-off. After jumping out to a 17-5 first quarter lead, Meridian enjoyed a 36-18 advantage at halftime before putting the game away in the fourth. Canyon Stauffer contributed 16 points, followed by Maldonado with nine, as well as sophomores Journey Stauffer and Mariana Paniagua with six each.

“Due to injuries and illness, we only had eight of our 12 players available to play, so it was unchartered waters with our limited rotation,” Butler said. “With seven players scoring, our offense was still fairly balanced. But we only sank six of 26 free throws, which has to improve as we move deeper into district.”

Dirkse also dominated on the boards, pulling down a game-high nine rebounds, while Canyon Stauffer dished out four assists and came up with five steals

“Our defensive effort was solid,” Butler said. “Our defensive style of play is starting to pay dividends and will be the cornerstone of what we rely on this season.”

In the low-scoring district opener Dec. 13, the Blum Lady Bobcats delivered a sterling defensive effort to hold off the visiting Lady Jackets, 35-27. With no players reaching double figures, freshman Dyna Potter, Canyon Stauffer and Journey Stauffer led Meridian with six points apiece, followed by Paniagua with five.

“We were missing some of our key players, which impacted our full court defensive pressure,” Butler said. “Our achilles heel has been free throws, and we managed to sink only seven of 19 free throws against Blum. In addition, we gave up 10 points in transition. Our halfcourt defense was solid. However, Blum was able to handle our pressure and beat us down the court converting transition layups. We will learn from this game and play better in Meridian.”

In their final tune-ups for district competition, the Lady Jackets dropped a home game to Aquilla, 59-34, Dec. 6 before winning one out of four matchups in the Santo Tournament Dec. 8-10. After opening with back-to-back losses to Graford, 37-19, and Huckabay, 58-20, the Lady Jackets slipped past Archer City, 28-26, before closing out the tournament with a 38-25 loss to the host Santo Lady Wildcats.

“Our girls played some quality opponents like Huckabay and competed well,” Butler said. “Our man defense has improved significantly, while our offense is still a work in progress.

“Our win over Archer City was a great confidence builder for our young, inexperienced team. We executed an inbounds play with eight seconds on the clock and were able to get to the line where Journey Stauffer sank two clutch free throws with three seconds on the clock for the win.”

In the win over Archer City, Journey Stauffer led the Lady Jackets (3-13) with 15 points, two assists and two stills while junior Summer Chen pulled down a team-high five rebounds. Canyon Stauffer added five points and grabbed four rebounds, while Dirkse tossed in four points and pulled down four boards.

In other tournament action, Dirkse led Meridian with 11 points against Santo, Canyon Stauffer led the scoring with eight points against Graford and six points against Huckabay, after topping the Lady Jackets with 14 points in the loss to Aquilla.

Coming into district, the Lady Jackets hoped to be in the middle of the battle with Iredell, Walnut Springs, Covington, Blum, Morgan and Kopperl for one of the four playoff berths.

“I believe we will be very competitive in our district with our defensive energy and style of play,” Butler said. “Blum and Iredell seem to be the teams to beat in our district. Blum is physical and has an older team with continuity and confidence in all that they do, while Iredell has a lot of shooters, solid fundamentals and depth.

“I believe we can compete well with anyone in our district. And if we can avoid injury, we can finish in the top four of our district.”   

As a first-year head coach taking over a young and inexperience varsity squad in Meridian, Butler has focused on establishing a new style of play and developing fundamental skills during the non-district and tournament schedule.

“In the short time I’ve had with the girls, I believe my impact has largely been on the defensive side of the court,” Butler said. “We play a full court pressure man approach, which is radically different to what the girls had played in the past. Our offense has struggled at times this year with our fundamentals in ball handling, dribbling, passing and shooting being areas of continued emphasis and improvement.

“Overall, I love these girls and their work ethic, attitude and class has been truly top notch. It is my privilege to work with them, and I have no doubt we will continue to grow in district play.”


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