WELLSTON, Ohio — They say that defense wins championships. They were right about this one.
The Meigs girls basketball team held the Athens to 19 percent from the field and claimed the Division II sectional title — the program’s first since 2000 — on Thursday in Jackson County, as the third-seeded Lady Marauders cruised to a 54-25 victory over the sixth-seeded Lady Bulldogs.
Meigs (15-8) — winner of five straight decisions — never trailed, scoring the first 11 points of the night with a trio of triples and one two-pointer.
Athens (8-15) ended the shut out, hitting a free throw with 1:52 left in the first quarter, but MHS closed the quarter with a 4-to-2 run and a 17-3 lead.
The Maroon and Gold scored the first five points of the second quarter, but AHS claimed three of the next five. Meigs marked the final three points of the half, however, and headed into the break with a 27-6 lead.
The Lady Bulldogs claimed the first five points of the second half, but the Lady Marauders earned 12 of the next 15 points with a quartet of three-pointers. Athens ended the spurt with back-to-back buckets, but Meigs scored the last seven points of the third and took a 46-18 advantage into the finale.
The Lady Marauders led by as many as 33 points in the fourth quarter, and settled for the 54-25 victory.
As the Maroon and Gold climbed the ladder and cut down the net, third-year MHS head coach Jarrod Kasun talked about what winning the sectional crown meant to his squad.
“It’s something we’ve been talking about, that’s been one of our goals, come in and cut down the nets,” Kasun said. “We came out hard this game, hit some shots and propelled ourselves out to a lead. We got a little lax in the second quarter, but then we came back out and fired it back up. I’m really proud, especially for my seven seniors.”
The Maroon and Gold hit 17-of-50 (34 percent) field goal attempts, including 12-of-31 (38.7 percent) from three-point range. Meanwhile, the Green and Gold were 8-of-42 (19 percent) from the field, including 2-of-9 (22.2 percent) from beyond the arc.
The Lady Marauders won the rebounding battle by a 36-to-30 clip, including 13-to-6 on the offensive end. Meigs also claimed the turnover edge, forcing 16 and committing 11. MHS finished with team totals of 16 assists, 11 steals and one rejection, while the Lady Bulldogs combined for five assists, three steals and three blocked shots.
Coach Kasun commended his team’s defense, which held an opponent to 25-or-fewer points for the seventh time this season.
“It’s what we pride ourselves on, we play hard man-to-man defense,” Kasun said. “We have to get up in people’s faces and pressure them, because we don’t have a lot of height. We did well, we held their scorers down, (Emma) Harter and (Laura) Manderick are solid players for Athens. The defense played great, we hit some three’s, and that carried us to the victory.”
Madison Fields led the Lady Marauders with 13 points and five assists, while hitting a trio of three-pointers. Becca Pullins was next with a dozen points, all from long range. Marissa Noble finished with eight points, six coming from beyond the arc and all occurring within the first 3:15 of the play.
Kassidy Betzing scored seven points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists in the win, Alyssa Smith added five points, while Mallory Hawley and Bre Lilly chipped in with four and three markers respectively. Taylor Swartz rounded out the winning tally with two points, to go with a game-best 11 rebounds.
Fields and Hawley both earned three steals to lead the MHS defense, with Hawley also rejecting a shot.
Kaylee Stewart and Laura Manderick led Athens with six points apiece, with Manderick earning a team-best two assists. Emma Harter — who led the AHS defense with a steal and a block — had four points, Haylie Mills added three points, while Lilly Mills, Emmarald Jean-Francois and Bella Tan each scored two.
Manderick and Haylie Mills tied for a team-high with seven rebounds apiece.
Meigs also defeated AHS twice in the regular season, winning 60-51 in overtime on Dec. 20 in Rocksprings, and 69-44 on Feb. 4 in The Plains.
The Lady Marauders will face second-seeded Washington Court House in the Division II district semifinal at Southeastern High School on Thursday.
The Lady Lions won’t be an unknown to the Lady Marauders, and Coach Kasun believes that his team has a opportunity to knock off the No. 2 seed.
“We went and scouted them, and if we keep playing well, we should have a chance,” Kasun said.
The Lady Lions advance to the district semifinal after a 61-23 victory over Waverly in Thursday’s sectional final at Adena High School.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.