Finishing the first round of District 20-1A play undefeated, frontrunning Meridian Yellowjackets slow down the Morgan Eagles, 48-40, to extend winning streak to five straight
Leaving no doubt on the court, the Meridian Yellowjacket boys basketball team remained undefeated in District 20-1A as they make the turn into the second round of competition. And the Jackets did so by living up to expectation in a much-anticipated showdown.
Producing a total team effort, Meridian overcame early injuries to key players to surge past the Morgan Eagles, 48-40, last Friday night to stake its claim to sole possession of first place and extend their winning streak to five straight.
“We are extremely happy to have finished the first round of district undefeated, but we have a long way to go,” Meridian boys basketball head coach Grant Schur said. “Obviously, the win against Morgan was huge, especially after playing the majority of that game with two of our better scorers and defenders out with injuries. I am really proud of the way our guys stepped up and found a way to win shorthanded and in a wild environment.”
With the win to wrap up the first round of district play, Meridian (6-0 in district, 15-7 overall) remains undefeated and holds onto sole possession ahead of the second place Covington Owls (5-1, 17-6), third place Morgan (4-2, 12-4) and fourth place Walnut Springs (3-3, 11-8), followed by Blum (2-4, 4-7), Iredell (1-5, 5-14) and Kopperl (0-6, 3-17).
The Jackets will open the second round by hosting Walnut Springs at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday before hitting the road for a first-place showdown with Covington Friday at 7:15 p.m.
“We have a huge week ahead of us,” Schur said. “Just trying to quickly get healthy again is one of our major concerns this week. Walnut gave us some fits the first time around, so that is going to be a huge game Tuesday. And then obviously, Covington Friday is another really big game at their place.
“I think I say this every week to myself, if we can just survive this week, I will feel a lot better. Then the next week comes, and it’s the same thing all over again. We definitely survived Friday against Morgan. Their kids played their tails off, and they have a lot to be proud of.”
Against Morgan, the Jackets enjoyed a 27-19 advantage at halftime, but the Eagles battled back to make it a four-point game going into the final period. Meridian rebuilt its lead down the stretch before holding on for the eight-point win.
Sophomore Matty Jones led the Jackets with 12 points while offering three assists and coming up with four steals, followed by senior Camron Sheffer with 10 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks as well as senior John Bernal with 10 points, 10 rebounds and six steals. Senior Junior Rodriguez contributed three assists and three steals, while senior Brady Taylor tossed in five points and grabbed four steals.
After crushing the Iredell Dragons, 74-22, at home Jan. 13, the Jackets knocked off the Blum Bobcats, 61-50, to remain undefeated and maintain sole possession of the district’s top spot heading into the showdown with Morgan.
“I am just happy to have gotten out of that game with a win,” Schur said. “Blum is probably the best four-win team I have seen. Their kids play hard and are very physical. Our bench players stepped up huge last night and had to play a lot of minutes because of foul trouble. We pride ourselves on the depth that we have, and it really showed last night.”
Although the Jackets jumped out to an early 15-9 first quarter lead, Blum came clawing back with a 23-point second period to make it a one-point game at halftime.
“There were plenty of opportunities last night for us to fold, and we never did,” Schur said. “I told them at halftime I was calm because I was confident in them, and I knew that we were going to be alright and get the win. We did some uncharacteristic things last night, and some of that had to do with what Blum was doing to us, but some of it was just on us.”
Coming out of the locker room, the Meridian defense shut down the Bobcats in the third period to rebuild its lead before the Jackets put Blum away in the fourth. Five Meridian players scored in double figures, led by senior Braxton Allen with 12 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, followed by Bernal with 11 points and five steals, sophomore Jordan Sheffer 10 points, six rebounds, four assists and a game-high 10 steals, Camron Sheffer 10 points, eight rebounds and a game high 10 blocks, as well as Jones 10 points, nine rebounds and five steals
“For small school like this, it’s a busy time of year, you have kids going every which direction doing multiple extracurricular activities,” Schur said. “So, we’ll try to put together the best days we can when we have everyone together, and be as prepared as we possibly can be each game. I think this second round of district could be pretty interesting district-wide. We just want to be as prepared as we can be and try to not be involved in any of the interesting things.”
Jumping out to a commanding 23-0 lead against Iredell, the Jackets built a 43-10 advantage by halftime and never looked back. Allen led Meridian with 18 points, followed by Bernal with 11 and Jordan Sheffer with 10, while Camron Sheffer and Taylor added eight points each against the Dragons.
“Obviously, we are very pleased with how we played against Iredell,” Schur said. “We really wanted to have a fast start and take control immediately. Our kids did a great job of responding to that challenge.”
On the boards, Camron Sheffer dominated with a team-high nine rebounds, followed by Taylor with six and Allen with five. Jordan Sheffer dished out a team-high four assists and collected eight steals, Jones offered three assists, while Bernal grabbed six steals.
“The week was a roller coaster as far as practice goes,” Schur said. “We had one of our best practices and a couple of our worst practices, so I really didn’t know what to expect from them going into the game.
“Coach Gallagher is doing some really good things at Iredell. Their kids played hard, and they are doing things right. We got to work on a lot of things Friday night offensively and defensively, so I think we got a lot better from it.”
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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