ACKERMAN — It was the matchup people didn’t think would happen.
No. 1 Meridian and No. 3 Choctaw Central — both ranked in the top five on MaxPreps.com — compete in different MHSAA classifications and weren’t slated to face off before league play began.
But the opportunity came at the Mid-Mississippi Challenge Saturday at Choctaw County High School Saturday, where the two squads squared off.
Among the two fast-paced, intensely run teams, it was the Lady Wildcats who elevated their game by winning under the boards, knocking down shots from the perimeter and keeping the Lady Warriors from finding a groove in a 57-32 victory.
“It was tough playing a really good team that’s well-coached,” Meridian head coach Deneshia Faulkner said. “My kids held it together. Conditioning is something we take seriously, and it’s for games like this.”
Dabreasha Powe earned a double-double with a game-high 18 points and 12 rebounds for Meridian (22-1). Arianna Patton hit four 3-pointers to finish with 12 points, Ti’Ian Boler scored 10 points and added five rebounds and point guard Tymesha Reed dished out 11 assists along with nine points and seven boards.
Meloney Thames scored nearly half of Choctaw Central’s (16-3) points, ending with 14 and hauling in nine rebounds. Lyleonia Johnson made two 3s for six points.
“We knew they could shoot it, just not that good,” Choctaw Central head coach Bill Smith said. “They’ve got everything — speed, quickness, size — and we just didn’t have it.”
The contest had the makings of a thriller early on as the teams traded 3-pointers to open the contest. Thames also went coast-to-coast on a bucket, and Boler followed with a 3-point play.
But after a basket by Thames to put the Lady Warriors ahead 9-8, the Lady Wildcats strung together eight straight points thanks to back-to-back 3s from Tyana Clark and Patton. Kyla Farmer completed a 3-point play, and Boler scored on a putback before Thames hit her only shot of the afternoon from the perimeter to make it 18-15 Meridian after one.
The Lady Wildcats then found some separation by opening the second quarter on an 8-0 run that put them up by 12. Johnson and Shantashia John made shots from beyond the arc for the Lady Warriors’ only points of the period before Powe ended the first half with seven points in a row to put Meridian up 35-21 at intermission.
Several of Powe’s 15 points through the first 16 minutes came by passes from Reed, who had 10 assists by halftime.
“I had to push hard with my team, and keep up the pace against the (Choctaw) defense,” Reed said.
Patton nailed back-to-back 3-pointers in the third quarter as her squad built a 20-point lead that Choctaw Central couldn’t cut into. The Lady Warriors were kept out of the paint throughout the game, and after making four shots from beyond the arc in the first half, went cold in the second and failed to hit one.
Thames scored seven of her team’s 11 second-half points.
“We rely on that, but we couldn’t post up with their six-footers,” Smith said of Choctaw Central’s 3-point shooting. “They hit theirs, we didn’t hit ours.”
The Lady Wildcats made seven treys for the game in picking up their eighth-straight win to remain unbeaten in Mississippi, with their only loss of the season coming against Alabama’s Hoover Dec. 19. They’ll play again Monday at the East Central Community College MLK Shootout against Holmes County Central before returning to Region 5-6A action at home against Petal Friday.
“My girls came out and did a really good job defensively because it’s really hard to guard Choctaw’s offense. They have some really good shooters,” Faulkner said. “We had a lot of communication going on, a lot effort and energy, and that’s what it takes. It was a good game to measure where we are, and we are at our best.”
The loss for the Lady Warriors snaps a three-game win streak. They’ll play Harrison Central Monday at the East Central Community College MLK Shootout before traveling to Louisville Tuesday to continue their Region 4-4A slate.