The Mustangs began state postseason play on Friday night, as they traveled up the road to McLean High School to face Lafayette. Meridian technically was the home team as the top seed in their portion of the bracket, but due to a change in formatting for this year’s VHSL playoffs, games beyond the regional level are now held at neutral venues.
Head coach Chris Carrico said before the game that it figured to be a harder matchup than what Meridian faced against its conference foes, but the girls didn’t seem to get the memo as they scored the first eight points, while the favorable local crowd cheered on. They expanded that lead to 12-2 after a quarter and then 16-2 early in the second as their suffocating defense forced Lafayette completely out of rhythm, but the visitors pulled it together as they went on a 9-2 run to end the half, leaving the Mustangs needing to recapture the momentum.
Lafayette scored the first bucket after the break to cut the deficit to 18-13, but then a technical foul and ensuing four-point possession by the Mustangs kickstarted a 12-0 run, with Ellie Friesen hitting back-to-back threes to give Meridian its largest lead of the night before the opposition called timeout to stop the bleeding. The run expanded to 14 straight before Lafayette scored again, and the Mustangs kept their feet on the gas as they took a commanding 37-18 advantage into the final frame. Lafayette made a few brief runs late but never got within true striking distance, and as the clock hit all zeroes, Meridian clinched its spot in the State Semifinals with a 49-26 victory.
Nora Stufft led all scorers with 14 while Friesen added 11, all of which came during the third quarter, and Peyton Jones also got into double figures with 10. The Mustangs will play conference rival Brentsville next Monday with a return to the Siegel Center in Richmond on the line – in their three previous matchups against the Tigers this year (two in the regular season, one in the Regional Finals), they’ve won 57-29, 47-44, and 37-31.