Falls City Sacred Heart stayed undefeated and claimed their fourth consecutive MUDECAS Championship Saturday night.
In a rematch of last year's championship, the Lady Irish defeated Meridian 48-30. It was the first loss of the season for the Lady Mustangs.
Sacred Heart Coach Luke Santo said he was proud of how his team responded to the tough competition of MUDECAS.
"We love the MUDECAS Tournament and our girls really embrace it and know it's a special week," Santo said. "We know we are going to play great teams, so from a competition standpoint, you have to feel really fortunate to come out as champions."
After a high scoring first quarter in which Meridian jumped out to a 17-12 lead, Sacred Heart's defense clamped down the rest of the way. They held Meridian to just 13 points combined in the final three quarters.
Santo said he liked how his team defended in the first quarter, but said Meridian just came out on fire.
"We felt like we were contesting well, so we just told the girls to be patient and keep guarding and hoped they would eventually cool off," Santo said. We settled down and did a good job rebounding. In the second half, we were more aggressive against their zone and got some looks and we stretched them out a more and I think they got frustrated because they weren't scoring."
Meridian jumped out to a 2-0 lead after two free throws from Halle Pribyl. A basket by Lauren Fiegener and a free throw by McKenzie Witt made it 3-2, but Erin Johnson came back with two free throws to give Meridian the lead back.
Ahren Ebel hit two free throws for the Irish and Meridian's Hailey Schafer countered that with a jumper to make it 6-5.
Randee Witt then hit the first three point of the game to give the lead back to the Irish, but a basket by Johnson and a three pointer by Pribyl made it 11-8, Meridian.
Sacred Heart's Elizabeth Keithley cut the deficit to one point with a basket, but a three pointer by Jaicee Sobotka made it 14-10. After two free throws by Fiegener, Johnson finished the first quarter scoring with a three pointer to make it 17-12.
The second half was much lower scoring with only six total points being scored. Two free throws by Sara Wertenberger, a jump shot by Lauren Parish and a free throw by McKenzie Witt tied the game at 17-17.
Meridian's only point of the second quarter came with under 10 seconds to go in the half. Johnson knocked down a free throw to make it 18-17 at the half.
The Mustang offense also continued to struggle in the third quarter. They managed just three points while the Irish built a 33-21 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Meridian would be unable to get the deficit under 10 the rest of the way as the Irish went on to win 48-30.
Sara Wertenberger led the way for the Irish with 12 points while Abby Fiegener had 11 points. Also scoring was Witt with nine, Ebel with seven, Keithley with four and McKenzie Witt and Danielle Bippes had two each.
Sacred Heart had a considerable size advantage, but Santo said they didn't exploit that early.
"We got them in foul trouble, but we kind of let them off the hook," Santo said. "We were tentative and didn't get it inside and when we did, we didn't finish. We challenged our guards to keep getting it inside in the second half and we challenged our bigs to finish and I think they both responded well."
Johnson led Meridian with 12 points while Pribyl had six, Jaicee Sobotka and Hailey Schafer had five each and Breanna Miller had two.
Meridian coach Robert Schropfer said he was disappointed in his team's shot selection as well as their struggles from the free throw line.
"We also got into some foul trouble, which was a factor," Schropfer said. "But the long and short of it was we couldn't stop their inside game and couldn't keep them off the boards. We weren't getting any second shots. Normally, when you shoot poorly, you get some rebounds and get some putbacks, but that wasn't the case tonight."
Santo said winning MUDECAS is a huge momentum builder for his team going forward.
"We got better this week and we gained a lot of confidence," Santo said. "This should be a good shot in the arm for us moving forward."
A Division girls scores
Third place: Exeter-Milligan 50, BDS 42
Consolation: Freeman 51, Johnson-Brock 41
Consolation: Tri County 36, Diller-Odell 35
Girls A All-Jane White Team
Erin Johnson, Meridian
McKenzie Witt, Sacred Heart
Jaicee Sobotka, Meridian
Sara Wertenberger, Sacred Heart
Abby Fiegener, Sacred Heart
Kailey Weichel, Tri County
Addi Dorn, Freeman
Addison Heidemann, Diller-Odell
Kaitlynn Simon, Johnson-Brock
Katherine White, Exeter-Milligan
Regan Alfs, BDS
Kate Jansky, Exeter-Milligan
Halle Pribyl, Meridian