in Girls Basketball

Riding a five-game winning streak in District 20-1A girls basketball, Meridian Lady Jackets open second round with rematch against undefeated frontrunner Blum

After closing out the first round of District 20-1A with a hard-fought victory, the Meridian Lady Jacket girls basketball team looks to challenge for the league title down the stretch run toward a postseason berth.

Extending their winning streak to five straight, the Lady Jackets posted an impressive 44-36 win at home over the 24th-ranked Iredell Lady Dragons last Friday night. With the win, Meridian (5-1 in district, 8-15 overall) took over sole possession of second place behind the undefeated front-running Blum Lady Bobcats (6-0, 9-3).

“Our game against Iredell was a battle start to finish,” Meridian girls basketball head coach Matthew Butler said. “Iredell has some good shooters and skilled guards who can handle the ball and attack the rim. So, we knew we would have a challenge to defend them and have to give great effort for four quarters from start to finish.”

Against Iredell (4-2, 11-2), the Lady Jackets fought to a slim 12-11 first quarter lead before opening up an eight-point advantage before halftime. Led by junior Journey Stauffer with 19 points, Meridian outscored the Lady Dragons, 13-6, in the third period before Iredell’s rally in the fourth fell short.

“Entering the fourth, we were up by 14,” Butler said. “So, we used the fourth quarter to work on some more patient sets that we might need down the road aimed at running time. We didn’t want to have quick possessions that would give Iredell a chance to get back in the game.”

Behind Journey Stauffer with five rebounds, two assists and four steals, junior Canyon Stauffer tossed in 12 points, dished out two assists and three steals, while junior Summer Chen dominated the boards with a team-high nine rebounds, followed by junior Eve Dirske with six.

“We are a young team, so learning how to play in different situations is important and will be valuable down the road,” Butler said. “I loved our relentless defensive effort and great shooting by our guards. The Stauffer sisters really played nice games with their tenacious defense and making five three-point shots between them. We will learn from this game, especially from the fourth quarter, in decision making of when to play fast and when to slow it down.”

Hoping to avenge their 35-27 loss on Dec. 13, the Lady Jackets will open the second round of district by hosting Blum at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17 before traveling to Morgan to take on the Lady Eagles (1-5, 2-12) at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20. As the first round of district came to a close, Iredell stands in third place behind Blum and Meridian, followed by Walnut Springs (3-3, 6-8), Covington (2-4, 4-8), Morgan and Kopperl (0-6, 0-15).

“Overall, I was very proud of our team’s mental toughness and determination to win against a very evenly matched team,” Butler said. “After five consecutive wins, we have now earned the opportunity to challenge an athletic, scrappy Blum team for first place in our district.

“In the district opener against Blum, we were missing some of our key players and lost by eight in their gym. So, we are hopeful with all hands on deck, coupled with the home location and our team growth, we will pull out a victory at home Tuesday. It should be a very competitive great game.”               


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