Charges back from double-digits halftime deficit to post 19th 'W'
MEADVILLE — When the previously-unbeaten Meadville High School Eagles were torched by Bucklin/Macon County R-4 for a 15-1 run to close the first half of their championship-semifinal contest in MHS' own tournament Thursday night, the hosts clearly were out of sorts. However, because it was only the mid-point of the game, they weren't out of time. Because neither were they out of answers, they're still perfect in 2012-13.
Behind 29-18 at intermission after the aroused Raiders stunned the icy Eagles with their blitz over the last five minutes of the second quarter, Meadville produced a couple of 3-points possessions in the first minute of the final half to signal their intentions. Then, after the first-year cooperative program they were facing attempted to fend them, the Eagles unleashed a flurry which overtook BMCR4 and opened enough daylight to let the tourney's top seed get to the finish line a couple of possessions in front, 60-52.
As a result, Meadville and second-seeded Mercer – itself a 55-51 overtime survivor of No. 3 seed Linn County earlier Thursday evening – will tangle for the tournament championship Saturday. In a change from the traditional evening schedule, Saturday's boys' third-place contest and subsequent girls' and boys' title games will be in session set to start at 1:30 p.m.
The girls' championship game will pit overwhelmingly-favored, once-beaten Mercer and No. 7 seed Hale after each won comfortably Thursday.
(B) Meadville 60, Bucklin/Macon Co. R-4 52
Thursday's two girls' games lacked any drama as each winner took a firm upper hand early, but the boys' tilts more than balanced the scales.
In the evening's finale, Meadville (19-0) never found its offensive stride in the first half and energetic BMCR4 finally took advantage after the Eagles' T.J. Schmitz broke a 14-14 tie with a trey about two or three minutes into the second period.
Blanking MHS from the floor the rest of the half, the Raiders took the lead before mid-stanza and kept inching farther and farther ahead until hitting a 3-pointer just before the horn to push its lead to twin figures at 29-18.
Even when the Eagles zipped in six quick points to cut the gap by more than half in the opening moments of the third frame, Bucklin/
Macon County R-4 didn't rattle. Soon enough, it had the lead back to nine, but Meadville had picked up the scent on offense.
Finally, with exactly a minute left in the third quarter, sophomore Dalton Palmer stepped squarely into the spotlight and put his team on top for good.
Taking Derek Smith's pass just inside the 3-point line in the right corner when two defenders stepped out to stop Smith's dribble, Palmer swished an 18-footer and snapped a 37-37 deadlock.
After the Raiders failed to score, Meadville ran the clock down, then found Palmer open again, this time on the other side of the arc and the other side of the floor. The change of distance and perspectivee didn't matter as the MHS sub drilled a trey with nine seconds on the clock for a 42-37 MHS lead heading into the final period.
The opening minute of that last stanza didn't produce any scoring, but when it did after 71 seconds it again was Palmer doing the deed. Open, but about 24 feet away from the hoop on the right side, the 10th grader dropped another grenade down the foxhole, exploding Meadville's lead to eight, 45-37.
Although Bucklin/Macon County R-4 didn't let the floodgates open, it could never get enough consecutive stops and conversions to get possession with a chance to tie and Meadville – which not only will play Mercer late Saturday afternoon, but then travel to Columbia to take on Glasgow in the MFA Oil-Break Time Shootout at Mizzou Arena on the University of Missouri campus late Sunday afternoon – had survived.
Smith's 21 points for MHS led all scorers with Palmer ending up with 15 and T.J. Schmitz 11. The excellently-balanced BMCR4's Raiders got 12 each from Damon Porter, Lake McCollum, Alex Porter and 11 from Dillan Nolte.
(B) Mercer 55, Linn County 51, ot
The initial boys' title semifinal saw two clubs which had battled on close terms throughout a meeting in the Milan Invitational a couple of weeks earlier hook up in the same kind of game.
With Mercer star Colton Hartley saddled with a couple of early fouls and sitting out about the last 10 minutes of the first half, LCHS' Mustangs generally had the better of things, but couldn't open the daylight they'd have liked to in Hartley's absence.
Sparked by the tremendous rebounding, especially on the offensive glass, of forward John Girdner in the third frame, Mercer began to establish an inside game.
To go with what Girdner was doing, with quick Mustangs senior guard Ty Stillwell having done an excellent job of limiting the strong Hartley's ability to create with dribble drives, Mercer coach Tina Holt smartly changed tactics.
Shifting Hartley to the low post where his better height and strength allowed him to take passes and use power moves on the shorter Mustang, Mercer began to generate points both inside and outside.
Linn County didn't wilt, however, getting just enough perimeter scoring from Stillwell, Josh Allen, and Derek Wilson and a couple of key inside buckets to keep it close.
As regulation time wound down, the lead changed hands twice in the last minute before, with nine seconds left, Allen converted only the back end of a 2-shot foul situation to tie the game at 45-45. After Mercer lost the ball out of bounds on its end with a couple of seconds left, the Mustangs couldn't get a shot away and to overtime they went.
The contest remained tight throughout the extra four minutes, but Linn County missed three defended shots that could have tied it again in the last 10 seconds of OT before fouling on the fourth rebound with one tick left. Mercer's Trey Wilson sewed up the Cardinals' victory by hitting both shots.
Despite his long first-half absence and limited outside shooting success, Hartley finished with a game-high 21 points and teammate Caleb Wyatt had 16. Linn County's Mustangs (10-6) got 14 from Allen and 10 from Stillwell.
Linn County's boys will play Bucklin/Macon County R-4 for third place Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
(G) Hale 45, Mendon: Northwestern 27
In the surprising clash of Nos. 6 and 7 seeds in the opening contest of the evening, Hale's Lady Cardinals (10-7) seized an early 11-3 lead and Northwestern's Lady Eagles (8-8) never could score consistently enough to make any real inroads on that deficit. In the final quarter, Hale would lengthen its lead to the final 18-points spread.
The contest's leading scorer was Hale guard Courtney Eddins with 19 markers. Forward Quincey Copple had 16. Northwestern's leading scorer was Mallory Gardner with 15.
(G) Mercer 74, Meadville 22
Led by 3-time All-Staters Sierra Michaelis and Courtney Owens, Mercer's Lady Cardinals crushed Meadville.
MU-bound Michaelis finished with 38 points and Owens, who's signed to play small-college ball, had 18. Kassidy Stark added another 12.
Meadville's Haley Fitzpatrick and Erin Shiflett, playing with an injured left wrist, scored nine points apiece.
Northwestern will play Meadville for third place on Friday at abuut 8 p.m.