Meridian High School’s girls’ basketball team swept conference rival Brentsville in the regular season and then beat them again in regional tournament play, but they’d have to get through the Tigers one more time in order to get back to Friday’s State Finals at VCU’s Siegel Center. McLean High – about a ten minute drive up the road from Meridian – was a packed house filled mostly with Mustang supporters, but Chris Carrico’s squad would have a challenge in front of them as senior forward Elizabeth Creed was unable to play with a wrist injury.
Peyton Jones got the scoring started with a three-point play the old fashioned way, and although Brentsville came back to tie on a few occasions, the Mustangs never trailed in the first quarter and led 15-10 after a frame. They went ahead 17-12 early in the second, but then six straight points by the Tigers gave them their first lead of the game and forced a Mustang timeout. It did the trick, as Meridian ended the first half on a 6-0 run afterwards, capped off by a Nora Stufft layup at the buzzer.
Jones gave the Mustangs their biggest lead of the night by opening the third quarter with a layup on the opening possession, but Brentsville responded with eight straight points to take a 26-25 edge, and the dogfight was on. The Tigers pulled ahead by as much as five before Meridian responded to tie the game at 32 headed into the fourth, and the teams remained knotted at 36 apiece with under two minutes to go. That’s when Brentsville sunk two free throws to take the lead for good, as a Mustang turnover and two more free throws gave them a four point lead with less than a minute remaining. Jones was able to briefly keep hope alive with some clutch buckets, but the Tigers simply wouldn’t miss at the line and won by a final score of 46-41.
“We just missed opportunities,” said Carrico after the game. The Mustangs’ bench boss, who was named Regional Coach of the Year this past weekend, noted that Creed’s absence was a major factor, but also that his team struggled to get to the free throw line and to make baskets down the stretch.
In addition to Carrico, Creed and Jones both were honored with All-Regional First Team selections. Both are seniors and both will continue playing basketball in college next year; Jones at Rochester University and Creed at Christopher Newport. Meanwhile, Maureen Tremblay and Ellie Friesen both made the second team and Nora Stufft was named an honorable mention.
Jones did all she could in the defeat by scoring 16 points to lead the Mustangs, while Tremblay chipped in with 15. Brentsville was led by Alden Yergey’s 24.