Meadville Lady Eagles go wire to wire, hang up T-A for state berth
MHS girls roll 51-27 Thursday, will start state play next Wednesday
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
TINA — Given that the teams had met at Meadville on the first night of February and played an unexpectedly-close game which Tina-Avalon had claimed in overtime, it was a reasonable expectation that, when the schools’ girls’ basketball teams tangled again Thursday night – this time on the sparkling T-A floor installed last summer – with a district championship and berth in the Class 1 state tournament at stake, another tense, tight game would ensue.
It didn’t happen. When that proved to be the case, it was not surprising that the more-seasoned and tradition-steeped Meadville Lady Eagles would be the ones that prospered.
Throwing taller Tina-Avalon completely off its offensive rhythm with its full-court press and quick, pesky half-court defense, Meadville led from start to finish and, with a stunning 22-6 finishing kick over the final 9:15, claimed the District 12 Tournament crown, 51-27.
The victory sends MHS’ Lady Eagles (23-3) back to familiar territory – the state tourney, in which they could begin play at home next Wednesday, but, more likely, figure to journey to either North Shelby or Marion County (Philadelphia-Emerson).
Tina-Avalon’s Lady Dragons concluded their excellent season with a final mark of 17-4.
Thursday’s title game wasn’t necessarily decided early, but its trajectory certainly was. Even though T-A hovered at around 10 points behind after dropping behind by 11 inside the first six minutes, it never could generate any kind of run that put the game up for grabs.
Meadville senior Krysta Meyers opened the scoring with a right-corner trifecta after 2:15 had elapsed and the Lady Eagles never surrendered that advantage.
In front 11-2 as the game moved into the final three minutes of the opening quarter, Meadville got another key contribution from Kr. Meyers that proved critical in keeping Tina-Avalon’s attack stuck in neutral.
With the Lady Dragons heading upcourt in transition after a takeaway or rebound, junior forward Kadie Rounkles drove the ball toward the basket with Kr. Meyers defending just ahead of her.
With the Lady Eagle still positioned between her and the rim, K. Rounkles jumped to attempt a shot from about five feet away, but still with plenty of forward momentum. That meant crashing into Kr. Meyers as she released the shot, prompting a whistle and the official’s ruling of a charging foul.
Not only did the Lady Dragons get any points out of the possession, but the foul was K. Rounkles’ second and effectively forced second-year head coach Trent Moore to replace her for at least a while. In doing so, it eliminated half of the strong inside presence K. Rounkles and 6’1” senior cousin Samantha provide the club, a presence T-A had not yet established in the game, but still had hopes of using to offset Meadville’s advantage in speed and perimeter shooting.
With that partially-negated, Meadville was able to continue to play the game almost strictly on its style terms.
With 2:10 to go in the opening stanza, MHS senior star Kiera Holcer’s running 12-footer from the left baseline tickled the twine to make it 13-2, the first of multiple Lady Eagles double-digits leads until they finally stomped on the gas in the fourth quarter to turn the game into a runaway.
Up 16-4 commencing the second quarter, Meadville cooled off noticeably from long distance after getting a trey apiece from Kr. Meyers and the Holcer sisters Kiera and Korrie for its first three field goals.
Still, with K. Rounkles spending most of her time on the sidelines – including returning there several minutes before halftime when, after re-entering, she committed an ill-advised third foul trying to get to a loose-ball offensive rebound, Tina-Avalon couldn’t make up significant real estate.
It had managed to slip to within eight points with over a minute left in the half and, eventually, had possession down eight with under a half-minute to go until intermission. However, then came a devastating mistake which seemed to reinforce what the eventual outcome was destined to be.
Attempting to execute a pass from out front to the free-throw line area, T-A had the pass knocked away and stolen, creating a 2-on-1 fast-break for Meadville. Executing it perfectly, Ki. Holcer fed a pass to her baby sister for an uncontested layup with about four seconds on the clock. Instead of having their margin possibly cut to five or six points, had T-A converted its would-be final shot into a deuce or trey, the Lady Eagles romped to their dressing room up by dual digits again, 23-13.
Tina-Avalon, to its credit, didn’t wither in the face of its mistake and kept the margin right about at that spread through the first half of the third quarter.
When reserve guard Abby Jones cashed in an unguarded transition “gimme” with 3:08 left in that segment, the Lady Dragons trailed 27-19 and seemingly had another window of opportunity to, with even a small spurt, of getting within five or fewer points going to the last stanza.
A swap of baskets had the margin still at eight with under 90 seconds left in the third when the home team’s offense “hit the wall” and Meadville soared off into the distance.
What eventually would become the visitors’ game-closing 22-6 surge began with a twisting, no-fear drive by the Lady Eagles’ shortest starter, sophomore Mallory Dennis.
Getting the ball near the left corner, she dribbled slightly out toward the wing before, dipping her left shoulder and accelerating, she got past one defender. Now angling toward the lane as another Lady Dragon moved her direction from the foul line area, Dennis sidestepped to her left while still heading toward the basket. Avoiding that “help” defender on her right while simultaneously speeding past a taller T-A player on her left, Dennis found daylight between her and the basket, but, having ended her dribble to split those two defenders, remained about seven feet from the rim and a bit off-balance.
Showing deft touch even while her momentum was mostly straight ahead, rather than being able to be converted to a slowing jump, the 10th grader flicked the ball up off the window and in. Instead of a miss that T-A would have had a good chance to rebound and, with points at the other end, draw within two possessions, Meadville was back in front by 10, 31-21.
Whether by coincidence or psychological impact, Dennis’ fearless feat helped take the fire out of the Lady Dragons.
Behind 34-24 going to the final frame, the home team managed only one field goal and one free throw the rest of the way as the game became a blowout.
Statistically, Kiera Holcer’s 20 points easily led all scorers, supplemented by Ko. Holcer’s 13, Dennis’ nine, and eight from Kr. Meyers. Over half (eight) of Meadville’s 15 field goals came from outside the arc, not an unprecedented occurrence for the Lady Eagles.
Tina-Avalon did not get anyone into double figures, points-wise. K. Rounkles led it with nine, but Meadville’s short, swarming defense on S. Rounkles, most valuable player of last week’s Carroll-Livingston Activity Association Tournament which T-A won, left her with only three points, a total MHS head coach Drew Nier likely would not even have dreamed of seeing his team limit her to.