The Meridian girls basketball team gave it all they had — and then had to give more — but on Thursday it wasn’t enough as the Trojans lost to Elma, 50-47, in overtime as their season came to an end at the Class 1A state tournament in the Yakima SunDome.
“This is a gritty bunch, and they play to the end,” said Meridian coach Mark Gilmore, whose team finished the year at 19-7. “They’ve been a fun group to deal with. They are always busting it. There’s no quit in them.”
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There was no quit Thursday as the loser-out game was back and forth all the way, and two exhausted teams battled throughout. Meridian tied it with 14 seconds to go on Madeline Bowler’s putback to send it into overtime.
Then in the extra period, Lindsey Moore scored the first bucket on a steal and layup to put the Trojans ahead, 47-45. But the Eagles scored the final five points and Meridian’s season was over.
Junior center Jolee Sipma had another great game, scoring 20 points and pulling down nine rebounds. It was her two 3-pointers and three-point play in the second quarter that gave the Trojans their first lead, a lead they held until the final two minutes of regulation.
But that’s when Meridian’s aggressiveness, which had helped them get the lead, came back to haunt them. In a game that was very lopsided in fouls called (and that’s putting it nicely), Elma had twice as many free throw opportunities and made the most of them.
They sank three in the final two minutes of regulation and then three more in overtime while three of Meridian’s top players were fouling out.
In the end, Elma was 26 of 37 from the free throw line and called for 17 fouls. Meridian, however, was called for 31 fouls and could only hit nine of 18 free throws. To put it another way, the Trojans sank five more baskets, hit four more 3-pointers but were outscored by 17 at the foul line.
“We beat ourselves,” said Gilmore. “These were two teams (at state) we probably should have beaten.”
After Thursday’s disappointing 41-33 loss to Medical Lake in the quarterfinals, Friday’s defeat was a difficult way to end the season, especially for a group of seniors that had seen Meridian go to state three years in a row.
Those seniors are Moore, Makenna Holz, Lexi Groen, Abigail Martin and Ella Zander.
“We had a good season,” said Moore, who had nine rebounds for the Trojans. “We beat Lynden Christian and Lynden. We had some big wins. There were tears and emotions (in the locker room after), but we were at state three years in a row.”
Although Meridian came up one game short of earning a trophy, it says a lot about a program when getting to state is a disappointment.
“They’ll realize it later that they accomplished a lot of things,” said Gilmore, who will return juniors Sipma and Amanda Schleimer, sophomore Madeline Bowler and freshmen Finnley Claeys, Skyleigh James, Ellie DeWaard and Kayla Aalpole.
Elma 50, Meridian 47
Elma. 11 12 4 18 5 — 50
Meridian 5 13 10 11 2 — 47
Elma: Jalyn Sackrider 18, Kali Rambo 8, Kayli Johnson 2, Quin Mikel 5, Molly Johnston 15, Jillian Bieker 2, Kaelyn Burgher, Kassedy Olson, Alle Bol.
Meridian: Madeline Bowler 2, Amanda Schleimer 4, Finnley Claeys 3, Makenna Holz 6, Lexi Groen 4, Lindsey Moore 5, Jolee Sipma 20, Skyleigh James 3, Ellie DeWaard.
Shooting: Elma 11-45 24.4, Mer 16-62 25.8; FT— Elma 26-37 70.3, Mer 9-18 50.0; 3 PT—Elma 2-6 33.3 (Rambo 2), Mer 6-17 35.3 (Sipma 3, Claeys 1, Groen 1, Schleimer 1). Rebounds: Elma 44 (Johnston 12), Mer 43 (Moore 9, Sipma 9). Fouls: Elma 17 (Johnson), Mer 31 (Groen, Moore, James. Assists: Elma 5 (Johnston 2), Mer 6 (James 2). Turnovers: Elma 25, Mer 23. Blocks: Elma 5 (Sackrider 3), Mer 2 (Moore 1, James 1). Steals: Elma 12 (Johnson 4), Mer 10 (Claeys 3).
CLASS 1A GIRLS STATE TOURNAMENT
(With RPI seedings)
Regionals (Friday, Feb. 22)
#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, vs. #15 Connell 42 (loser out)
#13 Overlake 44, #12 Granger 33 (loser out)
Regionals (Saturday, Feb. 23)
#3 Lynden Christian 77, #6 Annie Wright 59
#7 Meridian 40, #2 Bellevue Christian 26
#11 Zillah 64, #14 Montesano 41 (loser out)
At Yakima SunDome
State play-in games (Wednesday, Feb. 27)
Annie Wright 71, Zillah 67 (loser out)
Bellevue Christian 50, Freeman 43 (loser out)
Elma 42, Overlake 30 (loser out)
Medical Lake 49, King’s 36 (loser out)
Quarterfinals (Thursday, Feb. 28)
Cashmere 62, Annie Wright 41
LaSalle 61, Bellevue Christian 21
Lynden Christian 55, Elma 25
Medical Lake 41, Meridian 33
Consolation semifinals (Friday, March 1)
Bellevue Christian 65, Annie Wright 36 (loser out)
Elma 50, Meridian 47, OT (loser out)
Semifinals (Friday, March 1)
LaSalle 41, Cashmere 35
Lynden Christian 58, Medical Lake 34
Fourth-sixth place game (Saturday, March 2)
Elma (22-4) vs. Bellevue Christian (23-4), 8 a.m. (winner fourth, loser sixth)
Consolation final (Saturday, March 2)
Cashmere (22-3) vs. Medical Lake (20-7), 11:15 a.m. (winner third, loser fifth)
Championship game (Saturday, March 2)
Lynden Christian (23-3) vs. LaSalle (26-0), 3 p.m. (winner first, loser second)
(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.