Meadville Tribune

January 22, 2013

Bulldogs prepare for crucial stretch in second half of season

By Lisa Byers
Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — Things were going pretty well for the Meadville boys basketball team.

The Bulldogs were riding a seven-game winning streak and were just a game back of Region 5-leading Hickory going into Friday’s game at Oil City.

Today, Meadville finds itself in a much different situation.

Friday night did not end as many would anticipate.

The Bulldogs, who had been shooting the ball very well, hit a wall. They shot just 35.4 percent for the game and scored just six points in the third quarter en route to a 62-52 loss to the Oilers, who had entered the game with just two region wins.

The loss was Meadville’s first since falling to Hickory back on Dec. 18 (75-63) and dropped the Bulldogs to two games back of the Hornets in the Region 5 standings and in a tie for second place with Franklin.

Question now is, how will the Bulldogs respond?

Meadville (10-3, 6-2 Region 5) has little time to dwell on Friday night’s loss. Today, the Bulldogs begin the second half of the regular season at Sharon. On Thursday, the ’Dogs play host to Hickory.

Earlier this season, Meadville beat Sharon 81-74 at the House of Thrills in a game that got a little too close for comfort late. Zak Price led the Bulldogs with 23 points. Khalil Hopson and Darrell Stovall had 19 points apiece for the Tigers (6-7, 4-4), who are tied with Farrell (7-7, 4-4) for fourth place in Region 5, just two games back of Meadville and Franklin (8-6, 6-2).

Sharon has lost three of its last five games, but the Tigers have not lost at home yet this season.

The Bulldogs cannot afford to go into Thursday’s game with Hickory on a two-game losing streak.

Starting off with a bang

Meadville isn’t the only team looking to make some noise as the second half of the season gets underway today across the area.

In Region 3 girls basketball, the top four teams in the standings meet tonight. Region-leading Conneaut hosts fourth-place Cambridge Springs, while Cochranton and Saegertown — tied for second place in the region — square off in Saegertown.

Both Conneaut and Cochranton are sitting pretty comfortably going into the second half of the season. The Eagles are in prime position to earn a District 10 Class AAA playoff spot at 12-2 overall. Cochranton is currently the top Class A team in the region by two games over Eisenhower and should also earn a playoff spot. The question comes at Class AA.

Saegertown (7-5, 4-2 Region 3) is currently the top Class AA team in Region 3, but by just a game over Cambridge Springs (8-5, 3-3). According to District 10, “in mixed classification regions the highest ranking team in classification will qualify provided there are two or more teams of the same classification.” That means only one of those teams is guaranteed a spot in the eight-team bracket. And earning an at-large spot in Class AA could be difficult.

Going into today’s action, Sharpsville (7-6 overall) and General McLane (13-1) would qualify as champions of regions 2 and 4, respectively, and Saegertown would be the automatic qualifier out of Region 3. The front runners for the remaining at-large bids would be North East (12-1), Seneca (11-3), Girard (10-4), Mercer (9-4) and Sharon (8-5).

Cambridge Springs is at Cochranton on Thursday. It could be a big week for the Lady Blue Devils.

In county boys basketball, it could be a relatively uneventful week unless someone pulls off a big upset. Region 3 leader Saegertown is at Eisenhower today. Cochranton hosts Jamestown in a non-region tilt on Wednesday. Conneaut doesn’t play again until Jan. 29 when it hosts Cochranton.

Saegertown, Conneaut and Cochranton are the top three teams, respectively, in Region 3.

Roll out the carpet

So the first half of the season has come and gone, and there are a few players and teams who made it a pretty entertaining first half.

First, how about General McLane sophomore Michelle Jahn?

Jahn finished the first half of the season averaging 14.9 points per game — second best in the Trib’s coverage area — and with a whopping 35 3-pointers. Cambridge Springs’ Taylor Babb and Meadville’s Shauntia Vactor-Pope are second in the area in treys. How many? 14.

Conneaut’s Kristen Baker is the area’s leading scorer with 15.4 points per game.

General McLane and Conneaut also made some noise collectively in the first half of the season and both lead their respective regions going into the second half. But the team that came away with perhaps the most impressive first half would have to be the Lakeview boys basketball team.

The Sailors are 12-2 overall and 5-1 in Region 2 with their lone losses coming to John Hay (Ohio) and West Middlesex, which remains ranked No. 8 in the state in Class AA in The Patriot-News’ latest state rankings.

Lakeview already had one player reach the 1,000-point mark for his career this season. Casey Greggs became the first for the boys since 2002 to reach that milestone. Dalton Boggs could add his name to that list in the second half of the season.

Who will be the stars of the second half? Stay tuned.