in Girls Basketball

Extending winning streak to four straight, Meridian Lady Jackets move into tie for second place in District 20-1A with 18th-ranked Iredell after victories over Covington, Kopperl

Riding a four-game winning streak in District 20-1A competition, the Meridian Lady Jacket girls basketball team has established itself as one of the teams to beat in the battle for postseason berths. And coming out of the holiday break, the Lady Jackets simply solidified their position.

With back-to-back overwhelming victories over the Covington Lady Owls, 53-18, at home last Tuesday and the Kopperl Lady Eagles, 61-13, on the road last Friday, Meridian (4-1 in district, 7-15 overall) moved into a tie second place in district behind the undefeated front running Blum Lady Bobcats.

“Overall, I’m proud of the growth of our young team,” Meridian girls basketball head coach Matthew Butler said. “Our defense, at times, has been very solid. We are striving to continue to grow and play with more consistency. We have moments where we lose focus and make defensive mistakes, so that is an area we will continue to develop. Offensively, we are getting better which is a product of our defense. The best offense is a great defense, so defense has been our focus in district play.”

After getting an open date on Tuesday, the Lady Jackets will wrap up the first round of district play by hosting the 18th-ranked Iredell Lady Dragons (4-1, 12-1) in a showdown for second place.

Against Covington (1-4, 3-8), the Lady Jackets jumped out to a commanding 18-2 lead in the first period and never looked back. Sophomore Journey Stauffer led Meridian with 20 points, six rebounds, three assists and four steals, while junior Canyon Stauffer tossed in 17 points, pulled down six rebounds and dished out three assists. Dominating on the boards, junior Eve Dirkse and junior Summer Chen pulled down seven rebounds apiece.

“In the Covington game, we had a good defensive effort holding them to only two points the first quarter,” Butler said. “We continue to grow and develop as a young team, and I was thankful we were able to get everyone some game experience in this game. This young team continues to give great effort through their relentless effort and defense.”

In the lopsided win over Kopperl (0-5, 0-14), the Lady Jackets jumped out to a commanding 23-5 advantage in the first period, then shut out the Lady Eagles in the second on their way to another impressive victory. Canyon Stauffer led Meridian with 15 points and three steals, while Journey Stauffer, Dirkse and sophomore Marianna Paniagua scored 10 points apiece. Dirkse also dominated the boards with seven rebounds, while Chen pulled down five.

“We have been able to create a lot of easy baskets,” Butler said. “But unfortunately, we are still missing a lot of easy lay ups and free throws. Our goal is to capitalize on these opportunities as we move through the second round of district, and hopefully, into the playoffs. Overall, I am very proud of the growth of this young team.”

Bouncing back from a disappointing District 20-1A opening loss to Blum, the Lady Jackets 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 before burying the Walnut Springs Hornets, 44-9, on the road before taking a nine-day break for the Christmas holidays.

“Our girls continue to improve in understanding our man-to-man schemes,” 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.”

Against Walnut Springs (3-3, 6-6), the Lady Jackets built a commanding 30-5 advantage by halftime and shutout the Lady Hornets in the fourth period to seal their second straight district win.

In the victory over Morgan (1-4, 2-11), 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 senior Erika 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.”


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