LONDONDERRY, Ohio — The Lady Marauders’ first trip to districts in nearly two decades didn’t quite go as planned.
The third-seeded Meigs girls basketball team — playing in the round of 64 for the first time since 2000 — never led and dropped a 60-49 decision to No. 2 seed Washington Court House in the Division II district semifinal on Thursday inside Southeastern High School’s Larry Jordan Gymnasium.
Meigs (15-9) — which had won five games in a row — tied the score at 2-all, 1:35 into play, but surrendered the next 11 points. The Lady Marauders ended the spurt with a two-pointer, but Washington (19-5) closed the period with an 8-to-2 run for a 21-6 lead.
After coming up empty on all-7 three-point attempts in the opening quarter, the Maroon and Gold dialed long distance twice as part of a 10-to-4 run to start the second period. Meigs made one more triple in the quarter, but was held scoreless otherwise, and the Lady Blue Lions headed into half with a 31-19 lead.
The Lady Marauders started the second half with back-to-back triples, cutting the WHS advantage to 31-25 with 6:40 left in the third. After back-to-back buckets by the Blue and White, Meigs went on an 8-0 run and trailed by just two points, at 35-33, with 1:40 left in the third.
The Lady Blue Lions scored the final seven points of the period, however, and headed into the fourth with a 42-33 edge.
Meigs claimed eight of the first 11 points in the fourth quarter, and trailed by four points, at 45-41, with 5:49 to play. Washington answered with an 8-0 run, however, making the margin 53-41 with three minutes remaining. The WHS lead never dipped into single digits in the final three minutes, as the Lady Blue Lions sealed the 60-49 win.
Following the season-ending setback, third year MHS head coach Jarrod Kasun acknowledged his team’s slow start, and commended its will to fight back.
“Our kids never gave up,” Kasun said. “In the first half, we put ourselves behind the eight ball. In the second half, we came up, cut it to six, cut it to four, we’d play with good energy, and then there’d be a play where we didn’t get a loose ball rebound, or we turned the ball over. They had a kid come off the bench and hit a couple big shots. We couldn’t tie the game, we couldn’t get the lead, the start was just awful and it killed us.”
Meigs connected on 16-of-48 (33.3 percent) field goal attempts, including 11-of-32 (34.5 percent) three-point tries, while Washington was 20-of-57 (35.1 percent) from the field, including 2-of-8 (25 percent) from deep. At the foul line, MHS was 6-of-8 (75 percent) and WHS was 18-of-23 (78.3 percent).
The Blue and White won the rebounding battle by a 40-to-25 count, including 15-to-4 on the offensive end. The Lady Blue Lions also claimed the turnover category, committing 13 and forcing 17. Collectively, the Lady Marauders earned 13 assists, six blocked shots and five steals, while WHS had team totals of 14 assists, nine steals and four rejections.
Kassidy Betzing led the Maroon and Gold with 15 points, including nine from beyond the arc, to go with six rebounds and four assists. Becca Pullins and Marissa Noble finished with nine points each, with both players making a trio of three-pointers.
Madison Fields and Mallory Hawley rounded out the MHS scoring with eight points apiece, with Fields making two triples and dishing out four assists. Hawley led the Lady Marauder defense with four blocks and a trio of steals, while Taylor Swartz pulled in a team-best seven rebounds.
Hannah Haithcock led the victors with a double-double of 22 points and 12 rebounds, scoring half of her points in the first four minutes of play. Rayana Burns also had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, to go with a game-high seven assists.
Next for WHS was Tabby Woods was next with seven points, followed by Shawna Conger with six, Halli Wall with five, Bre Taylor with four, and Kassady Hines with two. Taylor led the Washington defense with three steals, while Burns came up with three blocks and two steals.
Washington will be back at Larry Jordan Gymnasium to face top-seeded Vinton County in the district final on Thursday.
For Meigs, the setback means the end of the road for its seven seniors, Kassidy Betzing, Madison Fields, Marissa Noble, Becca Pullins, Taylor Swartz, Alyssa Smith and Kylee Blanks. Over the last four seasons, MHS has amassed 48 victories, with double-digit wins each campaign.
Coach Kasun talked about what the seniors have meant to the program, as well as what’s next for the Lady Marauders.
“We started something here that I hope we can keep going,” Kasun said. “The seven seniors have really, really went through a lot. It was a different culture and that’s what we wanted. We came out and played hard, we practiced hard and I’m really proud of them, they’re going to go on to bigger and better things. You know, five of those seven are National Honor Society kids. They’re going to be successful, all of them, I can’t say enough about them.
“Of course Mallory (Hawley) is really going to have to step up. We have some solid jay-vee players, they just need somebody to handle the ball, and Mallory’s going to have to be that person. We have a solid junior high program, and we’re going to have to work in the summer. We had that talk in the locker room after this game, you have to put your time in, and it’s not when basketball season starts.”
In addition to breaking an 18-year sectional title drought this winter, Meigs also ended its streak of nine consecutive seasons with double-digit losses.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.