JACKSON — Mississippi’s No. 1-ranked high school girls basketball team won’t be competing for a state championship Saturday.
Out of sync from the start, the Meridian girls never found much of a rhythm, and after giving up the lead to Clinton with five and a half minutes to play in the second quarter, the Lady Wildcats were unable to even the score from that point forward as they fell 63-51 in the MHSAA 6A semifinals Wednesday at the Mississippi Coliseum. The loss snapped a 16-game winning streak.
“We just came into the game seemingly like we were out of it mentally, and that’s just what happens when that happens,” Meridian head coach Deneshia Faulkner said. “You fall apart mentally, so we’ve just got to get back in and work and figure out what we can do.”
The Lady Wildcats shot 32 percent from the floor, going 4-for-24 on 3-pointers and 5-for-10 at the free-throw line. They outrebounded the Lady Arrows 46-28, hauling in 24 offensive boards and scoring 19 second-chance points, but they also gave up 16 points off 15 turnovers.
Dabreasha Powe led Meridian (29-2) with 16 points on 6-for-15 shooting and hit three of her squad’s four shots from beyond the arc. Ti’Ian Boler picked up a double-double with 13 points on 6-for-18 shooting and 12 rebounds, and Arianna Patton and Tyana Clark added eight points each.
Six field goals, including a 3-point play by Powe, helped the Lady Wildcats to a 14-10 advantage after the opening quarter. They made just three shots in the second, however, as Clinton (25-4) pulled ahead 18-16 with 5:32 left in the first half and went on a 7-0 run at the end of the period to lead 32-23 at halftime.
The Lady Wildcats were outscored 22-9 in the second quarter.
After going 0-for-13 from the 3-point line in the first two quarters, Meridian drilled three in a row from the perimeter, courtesy of two from Powe and another by Patton, to cut the score to early in the third.
But that was as close as the Lady Wildcats got as they traded buckets with the Lady Arrows until the end of the frame when Clinton made a 3-pointer and earned a 3-point play on back-to-back possessions to go up 47-38 heading into the final period.
“Even though we did (get back in the game), it was never consistent, and it was never from a collective group,” Faulkner said. “We still had some people struggling mentally, so we just never came back as a team.”
A 3 by Powe and a steal by the 5-foot-11 sophomore to Boler for an easy layup weren’t enough as the Lady Arrows answered nearly every Lady Wildcat basket to keep their lead in double digits.
Clinton finished the game with a 49 percent field-goal percentage, converting 14 of 19 free throws. Kimbreyell McBride ended with a team-high 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting, while Jakayla Johnson scored 14 on 4-for-10 shooting and Niela Hawthrone added 11 on 4-for-6 shooting.
“I’ll make sure they’ll be fine,” Faulkner said of her players. “Of course we’ll hurt, but we’ve just still got some more work to do.”