Coming out of holiday break, Meridian Yellowjackets win back-to-back District 20-1A games to maintain first place tie with the Morgan Eagles with first round showdown next week
By posting three consecutive impressive wins to open District 20-1A competition, the Meridian Yellowjacket boys basketball team has established itself as one of the frontrunners for the district crown. And even after taking time off for the holidays and stumbling in the high-caliber Rio Vista Tournament, the Jackets quickly restored momentum. With back-to-back dominating district victories over Covington, 53-39, last Tuesday and Kopperl, 85-11, last Friday, Meridian remains only one of two undefeated teams in district.
“We have a long way to go throughout the rest of district,” Meridian boys basketball head coach Grant Schur said. “I have really been impressed with our district so far. The next two weeks are going to be a tough stretch for us, and we’ll have a good idea of where we are after that.”
After getting an open date in the schedule on Tuesday, the Jackets (3-0 in district, 12-6 overall) resume the first round of district by hosting the Iredell Dragons (1-3, 5-12) at 7:15 p.m. Friday in Yellowjacket Gymnasium. Next week, Meridian will host the Blum Bobcats (0-3, 2-6) Jan. 17 before wrapping up the first round of district at the Morgan Eagles (3-0, 11-2) Jan. 20 in what’s shaping up to be a showdown for first place.
“Next week, Blum and Morgan are going to be really tough matchups for us, and those will be big games for us,” Schur said. Then, we follow that up with a Walnut Springs team that is playing really well right now. Then, we have Covington again on the road. So, I’m both nervous and excited for that stretch. Our district is really pretty solid this year, and you can’t take anything for granted.”
Against Covington (3-1, 15-6), the Jackets enjoyed a 26-16 advantage going into halftime, but the Owls to tie the score with a dominating third period. Meridian responded by outscoring Covington, 17-3, down the stretch to run away with the win.
“We did some good things, and some not so good things last night,” Schur said. “Covington played really well, and credit to them for doing something I didn’t think they would do defensively. We will learn from that going forward, myself included. I think I am more disappointed in myself for not being prepared for that than anything. It was something I thought they might do, and talked myself out of it. The kids did a great job of overcoming that, and picking up a big district win.”
Senior Braxton Allen led the Jackets with a game-high 12 points along with eight rebounds, followed by senior Camron Sheffer with nine points and seven rebounds, as well as senior John Bernal with eight points, nine rebounds and eight steals. Senior Brady Taylor pulled down nine rebounds, while senior Dustan Bowers and sophomore Jordan Sheffer collected six steals each.
“I think we got a little comfortable coming out of the half and into the third quarter when we were up 10,” Schur said. “We’ve been in that situation several times and usually we are able to pull away. We let them tie it up and got outscored, 20-10, in the third quarter. I think that was a combination of things we were doing, myself included, and how hard they were playing.
“I challenged our guys late in the third and between periods, and they did a great job of responding. We really leaned on our defense and did a great job running the floor in the fourth to pull away. Like I said, I am extremely proud of the way our kids responded when pushed like we were last night. We had plenty of chances to give that game away. But our guys overcame a lot of things and picked up a win. I couldn’t be more proud of our guys.”
After taking seven days off for the Christmas break, the Jackets returned to action by playing in the Rio Vista Tournament, Dec. 27-28. Bringing its four-game winning streak to a halt, Meridian lost three straight in the tournament, getting edged by Class 2A host Rio Vista, 51-50, before dropping matchups to Class 4A Wichita Falls, 69-31, and Class 3A Grandview, 60-34.
But once the Jackets returned to district competition, Meridian resumed its dominant play with an overwhelming victory over Kopperl (0-3, 3-14).
“We really needed a big win after the Rio Vista tournament,” Schur said. “And then, we ended up not playing the way we would like to play against Covington. We set a goal defensively against Kopperl, and the kids did a great job of going after it. I’ve talked about the maturity of this team a lot, I set a goal defensively and they wanted to lower it, so again that’s just another sign of the maturity and mind set they have. Then they go out and do even better than the goal they set.”
Allen and Jordan Sheffer led Meridian with 20 points each, followed by Bernal with 14 points and 10 steals, sophomore Matty Jones with 10 points, and Camron Sheffer with nine points, a team-high 13 rebounds and seven blocks.
“Coach Davis is doing a good job in Kopperl,” Schur said. “You can tell they are well-coached and trying to do things the right way. They aren’t going to do anything but get better and better. It was good for us to get a big win.
“But what I really liked the most about it was the things we got to work on. We’ve had some big wins this year, and really every time it’s happened it’s turned into us kind of playing summer league style and not getting a lot out of it. We’ve talked in the past about how we have to control that in that situation and use that to work on things we need to work on.
“Kopperl did a great job of not breaking down, and continuing to run their offense and defense. So that gave us an opportunity to work on some things. And we did a good job of not getting out of our offense and defense, and it turning into something that doesn’t benefit us long term.”
After enjoying a productive run through their non-district and tournament schedule, the Jackets began district competition with a solid 65-42 road win over the Walnut Springs Hornets (2-2, 10-7), led by Camron Sheffer with 14 points and Jordon Sheffer with 11.
“Like I told the kids after the game, at the end of the day, a district win is a district win,” Schur said. “We, as a team, were not real happy with how we played tonight. But like I have said in the past, I think that shows the maturity of this team. We’ve talked before about finding a way to win when we aren’t playing our best, and we did that tonight.”
Meridian battled to a slim 28-22 first half advantage, but opened up the game with a huge third period, outscoring Walnut Springs, 19-8, tossing in 15 of 19 points in the paint. The Jackets maintained the offensive surge in the fourth period to put the game away. Also contributing to the Meridian offensive production were Bernal and Jones adding nine points each and Allen tossing in seven.
“I’ve said all year that our depth is a huge asset to us, our bench came up huge tonight,” Schur said. “We had several guys come in and be the spark we needed at different times. I told the kids after the game, in district play, it doesn’t matter if you win by 50 or win by two, it’s always good to get a win.”
Photos by WENDY OROZCO
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