That's where the Meridian High School girl's basketball team was to playing for the 2013-2014 MHSAA Class 6A state championship.
But the Lady Wildcats turned the ball over 13 times and connected on just one 3-point attempt in the second half to relinquish a three-point halftime advantage, falling, 61-53 to eventual state champion Horn Lake High School.
As Meridian turns the page on last season and shifts its focus to the future, coach Patricia Wilson has the daunting task of attempting to replace nine seniors off of last year's squad, including six players who signed scholarships with colleges.
“We have a whole new team out there,” Wilson said.
Meridian and many of the area's top teams continued with their offseason development Tuesday with the East Mississippi Summer League games.
In addition to the Lady Wildcats, five other local squads each played two contests with their sights set on 2014-2015 and a June 24 tournament at Northeast Lauderdale.
In the opening contest, Newton High School scored the first five points of the second half to break a 16-16 tie, grinding their way to an eventual 36-31 win over Meridian.
“That’s a very good team,” Newton coach Marcus Luckett said of Meridian. “They had already beaten us twice this summer, by three and 14 points, so this was a good win for us. We just wanted to come out today and fight.”
And Newton did just that, as the Lady Tigers were the first team to every loose ball and were constantly pressuring defensively in clawing their way to a win.
“That’s the best thing about my team, they love the challenge,” Luckett said of his 2A squad defeating a higher classification team. “If you beat them, they want to play you again, and they‘ll continue to play you until they win.”
The Lady Tigers were led offensively by senior-to-be Tanganyikia Lloyd, who poured in a team-high 16 points, including four second half 3-pointers.
“She can shoot it,” Luckett said of Lloyd. “Once she gets on, it’s on. I always encourage her to keep shooting it. She’s a gym rat, and she wants to continually get better.”
Angel Taylor contributed with seven points and ran the team at point guard for Newton.
“She’s really come a long way,” Luckett said. “She’s a big point guard that can see the floor. She’s not selfish, but that’s one of the things I keep getting on her about because she needs to be more selfish. But she does a tremendous job of distributing the ball and playing multiple positions.”
For the Lady Wildcats, junior-to-be forward Zaria Jones led the team with 11 points, while Nique Cherry chipped in with six points.
“I’m just seeing how well we gel, and how we make adjustments to in-game situations,” Wilson said. “This is mainly just getting the kids an opportunity to play and get a better idea of what we have going into next year.
“We didn’t handle the ball well at all (Tuesday). We turned the ball over a lot down the stretch, and we had bad possessions.”
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