The Meridian girls basketball team made sure there was no repeat of the last time it played Bellevue Christian, using some good, old fashion Whatcom County defense to win the rematch, 40-26, Saturday in the Class 1A state regionals at Issaquah High School.
The two teams met on Dec. 18 with the Bellevue Christian winning in the last few seconds, 50-49. There would be no last-second shots this time as the Trojans put the defensive clamps on the No.2-ranked Vikings, holding them to their second lowest point total of the season.
“Our girls did a great job taking them out of their game,” said Meridian coach Mark Gilmore, whose team improved to 19-5 on the season. “They couldn’t get anything going.”
For stories and pictures from the 1B, 1A and 2A regionals, be sure to keep checking www.whatcomhoops.com.
And now it is the seventh-seeded Trojans who will be going … straight to the state quarterfinals on Thursday in Yakima. Meridian will face the winner of Wednesday’s loser-out game between Medical Lake (18-6) and King’s (20-6) at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Junior post Jolee Sipma had an uncharacteristically low (for her) 10 points but that was enough to lead Meridian. Freshman post Skyleigh James added 10 points and freshman wing Finnley Claeys had 8 for the Trojans.
The 40 points were tied for Meridian’s lowest scoring output of the season, but Saturday was all about defense.
Gilmore praised the defense of 5-foot-7 seniors Lexi Groen and Mckenna Holz on Bellevue Christian’s two big girls — 6-1 Molly VandenBrink and 6-3 Molly Olson. VandenBrink was held to 6 points and Olson to 5, barely half of their average.
“I told the girls we have to make things happen on the defensive end,” said Gilmore. “They (the Vikings) don’t see defense in their league like we see up here.”
And now, for the first time in Gilmore’s six years coaching the Trojans, they will be skipping the Wednesday loser-out games at state and advancing directly to the quarterfinals.
Of course, they had to do it by upsetting the No.2-seeded team in the tournament.
“We’ve definitely earned a day off,” said Gilmore.
Bellevue Christian also will advance to Yakima, but will have to play a loser-out game against 10th-seeded Freeman (18-5) on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. Freeman defeated No.15 Connell, 62-42, on Friday.
Meridian 40, Bellevue Christian 26
Meridian 7 13 10 10 — 40
Bellevue Christian 7 4 5 10 — 26
Meridian: Madeline Bowler 2, Amanda Schleimer 2,Finnley Claeys 8, Makenna Holz 2, Lexi Groen 2, Lindsey Moore 5, Jolee Sipma 10, Skyleigh James 9.
Bellevue Christian: M. VandenBrink 6, R. Reese 8, M. Dodson, L. Reynolds 2, M. DeJonge, G. Fritch, S. Bold 5, M. Mumford, A. Archuleta, M. Olson 5, S. Skaggs.
CLASS 1A GIRLS STATE TOURNAMENT
(With RPI seedings)
#1 LaSalle 50, #8 King’s 27
#4 Cashmere 47, #5 Elma 34
#9 Medical Lake 42, #16 King’s Way Christian 31 (loser out)
#10 Freeman 62, #15 Connell 42 (loser out)
#13 Overlake 44, #12 Granger 33 (loser out)
#3 Lynden Christian 77, #6 Annie Wright 59
#7 Meridian 40, #2 Bellevue Christian 26
#11 Zillah 64, #14 Montesano 41 (loser out)
(Full schedule and bracket at nwcathletics.com)
Jim Carberry is a former Bellingham Herald sports editor and author of several books on Whatcom County prep basketball. Follow him on Twitter @whatcomhoops and visit the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page