Meridian Lady Jacket junior Journey Stauffer honored as defensive MVP, sophomore Canyon Stauffer draws co-offensive MVP in District 20-1A, Butler & staff receive coach of the year recognition
Despite finishing in second place behind District 20-1A champion Blum, the Meridian Lady Jacket girls basketball team dominated the all-district superlative awards while being awards three first-team all-district players and placing two more on the second team.
Meridian junior Canyon Stauffer shared the offensive most valuable player award with Iredell junior Gracie Benitez, Lady Jacket sophomore Journey Stauffer garnered the defensive most valuable player honors, while Meridian’s first-year head coach Matthew Butler and his staff received the coach of the year recognition.
“It’s always an honor to be nominated and selected by district competitors for any award or accolade,” Butler said. “In 18 years serving as a head coach, I’ve been blessed to be recognized for my efforts six other times. But this one is unique in that we were district runners up and not district champions. It’s usually a given that the district champion coaching staff receives this honor, so I’ll defer to the Blum staff to share in this honor. We have outstanding kids, and their efforts and improvement make our staff look good.”
In addition to the Stauffer sisters, junior Evelyn Dirkse drew first-team, all-district honors, while senior Erika Maldonado and sophomore Mariana Paniagua were placed on the second team. Lady Jacket senior Summer Chen, senior Abby Edwards and freshman Dyna Potter drew honorable mention recognition.
The Lady Jackets were also recognized for their efforts in the classroom as Chen, Dirkse, Potter, Journey Stauffer and sophomore Mackenzie Borhofen were named to the District 20-1A All-Academic squad.
To earn co-Offensive MVP honors, Canyon Stauffer scored 9.7 points per game while pulling down 3.0 rebounds and collecting 2.1 steals per game. Defensive MVP Journey Stauffer averaged 6.9 points per game while hitting the boards for 3.2 rebounds and coming up with 2.1 steals per game. As a first-team, all-district selection, Dirkse led the Lady Jackets with 4.9 rebounds per game while averaging 5.4 points per game.
“I was really proud of the respect our district demonstrated for our young team honoring our starters with high honors in all district selections,” Butler said. “Basketball is a team sport, and I think it’s hard to give individual awards to team players. All of our kids were very selfless and put the team first. But the Stauffer sisters were the core of our team this year with their relentless consistent effort both offensively and defensively.”
After putting the finishing touches on an impressive run through the District 20-1A schedule that earned a trip to the postseason tournament, the Lady Jackets saw their Cinderella season come to an end. Facing Class 1A’s 11th-ranked Gordon in a Bi-District playoff game, the Lady Jackets met their match as the Lady Longhorns stampeded to a convincing 38-13 victory in Dublin.
Despite losing the regular season finale in Iredell, the Lady Jackets rebounded in the District 20-1A second place playoff game by dominating the Lady Dragons, 35-24, in the rubber match between the two programs in Morgan to enter the postseason as the district’s second seed.
“This year was a rebuilding year having lost many seniors from last year’s team,” Butler said. “I believe we only had a few players return from last year’s senior heavy team, so we played a lot of new kids who had never played a varsity basketball game. I’m very proud of the improvements we made this season, winning 10 games in district and earning the opportunity to compete in the playoffs.
“Holding a good team like Gordon to only 38 points was a good defensive effort in Bi-District. However, my standard and vision for our team is not just to make the playoffs, but to make a deep run in the playoffs. We will work hard on developing our team shooting and passing skills in the offseason and be prepared to make a deep playoff run next year.”
With six underclassmen making the all-district squads during the 2022-23 Texas high school girls basketball season, Butler feels good about the future of Lady Jacket program.
“I feel really good about the future of our team having played a lot of young players this year and only losing a few seniors,” Butler said. “While we will miss our seniors from this year, we have a very strong junior high team coming up in the next two years, and they have the potential to do something special in the next few years. The key to maximizing our potential is to get in the gym and develop our basketball skills.”
Photos by WENDY OROZCO
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