Even with a bunch of seniors, even having played their opponent before, even having played in the Yakima SunDome a couple of months ago … even with all that, the Meridian boys basketball team was still a little nervous.
After all, now it’s STATE!
But once they got over those nerves, the Trojans ran all over Bellevue Christian, 61-49, in the first round of the Class 1A state tournament on Wednesday afternoon, March 4.
“First-game jitters,” said Jackson Short, one of six seniors who helped Meridian reach state for the first time in 10 years. “But once we calmed down …”
Once the Trojans (20-8) calmed down and rallied from a one-point halftime deficit, they were on their way to the state quarterfinals on Thursday at 12:15 p.m.
There the 12th-seeded Trojans will face another familiar opponent — Lynden Christian, which got a bye into the quarterfinals. The Lyncs won the two teams’ earlier matchup, 81-56.
Follow all the tournament action on WhatcomHoops.com and on the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.
But don’t count out this group of Trojans, who beat Bellevue Christian by three in overtime during a Christmas tournament in the SunDome. These Trojans are playing the kind of gritty defense and board play that makes teams dangerous in March.
And nobody epitomized that more than senior post Joe Plagerman.
“I love being in the trenches,” said Plagerman, who had 13 points and helped the shorter Trojans to a 35-25 rebounding edge. “We got off to a slow start. But we’ve worked for this for so long. It feels amazing, and our morale is high.”
The slow start may have been from nerves or just two good defenses making it hard on the offenses. Bellevue Christian (17-6) came into the loser-out contest as the fifth seed, and in the first half held Short and Jordan Veenstra, two of Meridian’s top scorers, to one field goal each.
But the Trojans got their offense going in the third quarter with 18 points to build a six-point lead going into the final period. And when Short hit a 3-pointer and Plagerman hit a layup to start the fourth quarter, the lead was double figures, and Bellevue Christian never threatened again.
“It was pretty choppy in the first half,” Meridian coach Shane Stacy said of the back-and-forth affair. “But these guys have a lot of maturity. They don’t get shook up. I do … but they don’t.”
That’s what comes from being a senior class with some history together. Another senior, Ryan Johnson, added 12 points and a team-high 7 rebounds.
“This group of guys has played together forever,” said Short, who had a game-high 17 points. “I’m grateful to be here, and to have the opportunity to share it with my best friends.”
As for playing the Lyncs again, Stacy was excited for the opportunity.
“This is great for our county and our conference,” he said.
“We’ll enjoy it tonight,” said Plagerman of Wednesday’s victory. “But we’ve got another one tomorrow.”
Tournament notes: Plagerman was awarded the game’s sportsmanship medal for Meridian.
Meridian 61, Bellevue Christian 49
Meridian 14 11 18 18—61
Bellevue Christian. 9 17 11 12—49
Meridian: Ryan Johnson 12, Corey Hemenway 3, Eli Hayrynen 2, Braiden Blackwelder, Trent Martin, Jackson Short 17, Trey Naidu 2, Jordan Veenstra 5, Joe Plagerman 13, Ethan Brooks 6.
Bellevue Christian: Jared Whitton 12, Elliot Hohman 16, Joseph Primas 8, Lucas Meissner 2, Malcom Schiltz 2, Avery Morgan 9, Luke Henry, Martin Von Fuchs, Alex Von Fuchs, Robert Bartell, Mason Green.
Class 1A boys state tournament
Wednesday, March 4
King’s 68, Zillah 59 (loser out)
King’s Way Christian 85, La Center 63 (loser out)
Meridian 61, Bellevue Christian 49 (loser out)
La Salle 63, Omak 56 (loser out)
Thursday, March 5
#4 River View vs. #14 King’s, 9 a.m.
#1 Seattle Academy vs. #7 King’s Way Christian, 10:30 a.m.
#6 Lynden Christian vs. #12 Meridian, 12:15 p.m.
#2 Cashmere vs. #9 La Salle, 2 p.m.
Friday, March 6
Consolation game, 9 a.m. (loser out)
Consolation games, 10:30.m. (loser out)
Semifinal, 7:15 p.m.
Semifinal, 9 p.m.
Saturday, March 7
Consolation game, 8 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Consolation game, 11:15 p.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Championship game, 7 p.m. (winner first, loser second)