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By Anthony Jones
After splitting their two regular season matchups, Triad and Jersey opened postseason play against each other on Feb. 11. After the two teams finished tied in the seedings, the Panthers were awarded home court advantage on a tie breaker.
Earlier in the week, Triad Coach Josh Hunt previewed the key to the Mississippi Valley matchup, “Their big freshmen in the middle has been really good against us. We’ve done a good job with their star player, Crawford, but [Gray] has shot 15 to 17 foot jumpers at the high post. She’s been quite the difference up there.”
In both of their previous matchups, Meredith Gray had scored 14 against the Lady Knights.
Another strong performance from the first year player helped the Panthers leap out to a 23-19 halftime lead over Triad. A 14-11 third quarter for the Lady Knights sliced that deficit down to just 34-33 however.
The then 17-14 Panthers pulled away in the final eight minutes for a 50-37 final. Gray finished with a game-high 19 points.
Savannah Hildebrand led Triad with ten points, while Sam Hartoin added on eight points and five rebounds.
The Lady Knights, who finished 5-23 with only three upperclassmen, played three games early in the week. A Feb. 6 visit to Columbia was the first of those.
The 17-10 Eagles were put on upset alert early in what would be a long night of basketball. Triad jumped ahead 17-13 at the end of the opening quarter and led 33-25 at the half.
Columbia rallied in the second half to force overtime at 54-54 and one extra period was not enough as the two squads were tied at 63-63 after 35 minutes of play.
Double overtime provided the Eagles with an opportunity to finally pull away, taking a 71-65 victory.
Hildebrand finished with a career high 26 points and 7 triples in the loss.
Two days later, the Lady Knights played their final home game of the season. The 5-20 Warriors marked just the fifth team without a winning record in Triad’s 28 game schedule.
From tipoff, the Lady Knights controlled the game. A 5-0 run to start the game would later translate to a 13-4 lead after the first quarter.
Their lead expanded to 26-9 at the half, with 13 of their points coming from Delaney Hess. The baker’s dozen tally marked a new career high for the sophomore.
At the end of the third, the Lady Knights led 40-23 enroute to a 60-36 final. Makenna Witham finished with a game-high 17 points.
Hess finished with 14, a total Coach Hunt noted, “Being a sophomore is tough playing varsity basketball and she’s coming into her own a little bit. Physicality, she’s getting stronger with that and she’s getting more confident in her shot and more confident in her shooting.”
The win also gave Hunt some added confidence headed into the next night’s visit to the 22-7 Mascoutah Indians.
“We’re playing better, we really are. Our sophomores are becoming more mature and tomorrow night’s going to be one heck of a challenge for us, they’re really good,” he remarked.
Triad hung tight in that conference battle, but fell 45-35. The Lady Knights did not allow more than 12 points in any quarter during the loss.
Witham finished with 16 points and Hildebrand provided 13 in the loss.