in Girls Basketball

After dropping District 20-1A first round rematch with Blum, Meridian Lady Jackets respond by overwhelming Morgan on the road to secure sole possession of second place

Despite losing their highly-anticipated District 20-1A rematch with Blum to open the second round, the Meridian Lady Jackets girls basketball team rebounded for a signature win as the Lady Jackets established themselves as one of the teams to beat in the race for postseason berths.

Even though losing to the Blum Lady Bobcats, 43-29, left them realistically playing for second place in district with four games remaining in the regular season, the Lady Jackets used a dominating 50-9 victory at Morgan last Friday to take the driver’s seat for the runner-up spot and a playoff berth.

“The Morgan game was a good team effort for our girls,” Meridian girls basketball head coach Matthew Butler said. “I was especially proud of our defensive effort against Morgan, holding them to only three points going into the fourth quarter. We continue to improve in playing pressure defense without fouling.”

Jumping out to an early 17-3 first period lead, the Lady Jackets (6-2 in district, 9-16 overall) shut out the Eagles (2-6, 3-13) for the next two quarters before surrendering six points in the final frame. Sophomore Journey Stauffer led Meridian with 17 points, eight rebounds and three steals, while junior Canyon Stauffer tossed in 13 points, pulled down six rebounds and grabbed three steals.

“It was good to have the opportunity to play everyone a lot — especially our younger, less experienced players in the fourth quarter,” Butler said. “The girls did a nice job sharing the ball and making the extra pass in transition to score some easy baskets. It is always our goal to consistently play at our best energy level and standard, no matter what the score.” 

Coming off the convincing victory, the Lady Jackets will host the third-place Walnut Springs Lady Hornets (5-3, 8-8) at 6 p.m. Tuesday before traveling to Covington to take on the Lady Owls (2-5, 4-9) Friday at 6 p.m. With Blum (8-0, 11-3) maintain their district lead over second place Meridian, Walnut Springs and the Iredell Lady Dragons (4-3, 11-3) hold commanding leads for the next two postseason berths ahead of Covington, Morgan and Kopperl (0-8, 0-17).

Hoping to avenge their 35-27 loss on Dec. 13, the Lady Jackets opened the second round of district with a disappointing 43-29 loss to undefeated district-leading last Tuesday in Yellowjacket Gymnasium, snapping Meridian’s five-game winning streak.

Using a fast-paced style of play, Blum ran past the Lady Jackets to build a commanding 22-12 first quarter lead before Meridian in the second to cut the advantage down to four points. But the Lady Bobcats rebuilt the lead before intermission and won the defensive battle in the second half to secure the win.

“The first quarter was high scoring with a lot of intensity, turnovers and fouls by both teams,” Butler said. “We dug ourselves a hole in the first quarter due to some turnovers and early fouls, which enabled them to score at the free throw line. However, I was really proud of our team’s effort fighting back to within four before the half.”

Although Meridian cut Blum’s lead down to seven points in the fourth, the Lady Bobcats hit their free throw opportunities down the stretch, making 22 of 37 shots from the line during the game, compared to the Lady Jackets with five of 19.

“Blum is an athletic high energy team who plays fast,” Butler said. “We had our opportunities, but we didn’t capitalize when we needed to down the stretch. I’m proud of the heart of our Lady Jackets as they played hard to the very end.”

In the low-scoring effort, Canyon Stauffer led the Lady Jackets with seven points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals, followed by Journey Stauffer with six points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, as well as junior Eve Dirkse with five points and seven rebounds.

Closing out the first round of district and 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 Jan. 13. Meridian fought to a slim 12-11 first quarter lead before opening up an eight-point advantage before halftime.

“Our game against Iredell was a battle start to finish,” 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.”

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. 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 Dirkse with six.

“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.”

 “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.”


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