Falls Church’s Meridian High School girls varsity basketball team has exploded in the Virginia State High School post-season playoffs with lopsided home court victories in the past few days over New Kent and Lakeland, and as a result will be traveling to Richmond for the Division 3 Final Championship game today, Thursday, March 10.
It will be at 6 p.m. today that the Mustangs will tangle with the Cavaliers of Carroll County High at the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center. The game will be live streamed on the NFHS network, and the game will be carried live for the public to see on the big screen at the Meridian High learning stairs.
It promises to be a titanic battle for the state title. The Mustangs have won 20 in a row and haven’t lost a competition since early December. The Cavaliers are 24-1 and also haven’t lost since early December.
The atmosphere was electric this Monday night in a packed Meridian High School gym as the Mustangs hosted the Lakeland Cavaliers that followed by just three days a lopsided win over New Kent.
Both games were “standing room only” on the Mustangs’ side of the gym and marked a perfect introduction of the new gym component of the newly constructed high school, open for business for the first time this season.
In the Lakeland game this Monday, the visitors opened the scoring on a shot from Jamauri Demeil in the opening minute, only to not score again until the second quarter as Senior guard Bella Paradiso’s layup sparked a 22-0 run for the Mustangs.
Meridian once again set the tone by playing a gritty, aggressive, and focused brand of basketball that created offense from its defense throughout the contest, and it was simply too much for Lakeland to overcome.
Disrupting the opponents’ rhythm early and often proved the difference as the Cavaliers managed to stop the bleeding following that first quarter avalanche, outscoring the home team by one in the next frame to take a 29-10 deficit into the half.
But the damage was done, and the Mustangs only expanded their lead after the halftime break, leading 42-16 after three quarters before cruising to a final score of 65-33.
Senior guard Zoraida Icabalceta led the Mustangs’ offensive attack with 22 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter, while hitting five three-pointers.
Junior guard Peyton Jones and Junior forward Elizabeth Creed each poured in 15, while the Cavaliers were led by Kemonye Canady’s nine and Kianna Gray’s eight. Lakeland was limited to only three first half field goals as they struggled to score the ball, and more than half of their points came during the fourth quarter.
In addition to the big win, several Mustangs earned All-Regional recognition, as was announced at halftime. Icabalceta was named Regional Player of the Year while Jones and Creed both joined her on the All-Region First Team, and Bella Paradiso was named to the All-Region Second Team. Additionally, head coach Chris Carrico was named Regional Coach of the Year, leading his squad to a record of 24-1-1 as they head into State Finals.
The Mustangs’ victory Monday followed an equally lopsided win the previous Friday night against the New Kent Trojans. Senior guard Megan Tremblay began the scoring with a three pointer, and the Mustangs never trailed en route to a dominant 75-33 victory.
The score was 5-4 in favor of the home team before a 12-0 run broke it open, as the Mustangs’ relentless full court pressure on the defensive side of the ball forced a slew of Trojan turnovers, many of them generating easy opportunities for uncontested layups.
The lead only grew from there – by halftime the score was 34-15, and any chance the visitors had of climbing back into the game quickly evaporated as Meridian expanded its margin to 62-23 by the end of the third quarter. It eventually climbed to a 51 point deficit for New Kent before a 9-0 run by the visitors in the closing minutes cut it to a final score of 75-33.
Five Mustangs scored in double figures. Junior guard Peyton Jones led the way with 19 points, including 13 in the first half. Megan Tremblay had 16 and Senior guard Bella Paradiso had 14. Zoraida Icabalceta, another Senior guard, scored all 12 of her markers in the second half while sinking three three-pointers, and Junior forward Elizabeth Creed had 11.
The Trojans were led by Katelyn Warren’s 14 points, the only member of the visiting team who scored more than five. New Kent was held to only eight made field goals over the course of the game, five of which came from Warren. The visitors’ lone three-pointer of the contest didn’t come until Jakiera Thomas knocked one down from deep in the fourth quarter.
The win was the 19th straight for the Mustangs, who have not lost since December 10th when they dropped a 53-49 decision in Yorktown (notwithstanding a contest against Brentsville on February 8th).