Meadville’s defensive effort this season has been near flawless. So with a perfect 8-0 record on the line and a feisty Hickory squad visiting, toying with such defense might seem ridiculous.

For veteran head coach Dean Henderson, it was a necessity. And, boy did the alteration pay off.

The Lady Bulldogs held the Hornets to five points or less in three of four quarters, including zero in the first period, en route to a 40-21 win in Region 5 action at the House of Thrills.

With the win, Meadville improved to 8-0 overall and 2-0 in the region. Hickory fell to 3-5 overall and 0-2 in Region 5.

“I know they’ve always been an inside-oriented team. Even their guards know how to post up,” Henderson said. “So I was really afraid they would start posting us up and getting us in foul trouble, which they did. So we moved some defenses around. It was like on the job training. And they adapted well.”

The Bulldogs’ ‘D’ had the Hornets in a frenzy through the early part of the contest, forcing six turnovers in the first period alone. Hickory was 0-for-5 from the field in the quarter, while the Bulldogs were 4-of-9 as they took a 10-0 lead.

Hickory was held scoreless until Claire Vellente made a layup one minute into the second quarter. The Hornets went on to score 10 more to cut the deficit to just six heading into the break.

That was pretty much it for the Hornets, however, the rest of the way.

“They took us out of our offense there for a little while and we started to get in that scrambling mode for awhile. They panic,” Henderson said. “But each time we get in it, we get out a little bit faster … There were a lot of positives.”

A big positive was Meadville’s offensive production against the Hornets. The Bulldogs got an array of offensive efforts from long jump shots by forward Asia Foster to crossovers by Leah Hardin to hook shots and assists by Abby Henderson.

Senior Casey Heller also came back to form, scoring a game-high 15 points. It was Heller’s first game in double figures dating back to Dec. 6 against Strong Vincent — a stretch of four games.

“Abby (Henderson) is running the offense now,” coach Henderson said. “She’s got a lot of confidence in herself now. She’s starting to contribute now, too. Before she was just trying to bring up the ball and play defense. Now she’s starting to contribute.

“And Casey’s slowly getting back into herself.”

Also on the scoreboard for the Bulldogs were Foster, Hardin and Henderson with six points each. Ivy Deegan chipped in with five points.

On the boards, Foster led the way with 10. Heller added six rebounds.

Leading the way for Hickory statistically was Claire Vellente with eight points and six rebounds.

“This has been a blast,” Abby Henderson said about the Bulldogs’ incredible start. “It really has been. We’re winning this year. Last year was kind of a down year, but this year’s been fun.”

The Bulldogs will take their unbeaten record on the road Friday when they travel to face defending Region 5 champion Franklin.

“That’s going to be a good game,” Abby Henderson said. “We’re going to go at them hard.”

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