Panthers fall to Couch in quarters

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Meadow Heights girls basketball team's best season in program history came to an end against Couch in the quarterfinal round of the Class 2 playoffs Saturday.

Couch built an 18-point first-quarter lead and cruised from there to a 54-24 victory at the West Plains Civic Center.

"They jumped out on us pretty early," Meadow Heights coach Mitch Nanney said. "They're a real solid club. They had three seniors in their starting lineup. All played real well for them. They jumped out 20-2. After that, up until the last three minutes of the game, we played pretty even with them. But you're down 18, you're down 18. We didn't have a lot of composure early. We turned the ball over a lot in the first quarter. ... We were a lot nervous."

The Panthers turned over the ball 10 times in the first quarter alone.

Couch led 20-2 after the first quarter and 30-10 at halftime. Couch ran a half-court 1-3-1 zone defense, which made it tough for the Panthers to muster much offense.

"They clogged the middle of the lanes and forced you to the outside," Nanney said about the Couch defense. "They did not give us many driving lanes at all. They get out and cover the perimeter real well. They did a very good job defensively."

The Panthers (21-7), who are in their fourth year of existence, had more wins this season (21) than they did in the past three years combined (19).

Gina Cureton and Whitney Welker scored six points each to lead the Panthers.

Meadow Heights has two seniors -- Ashley Doublin and Chelsey Kight -- who have been on the team since the program's inception. Kight finished with four points, and Doublin didn't score.

"Ashley and Chelsey have been there all along -- they've been there from the beginning," Nanney said. "We talked a bit after the game, 'Where were we at four years ago at this time?' We'd been sitting home for two and a half weeks already with a two-win season and got beat the very first year in districts by 30 points. So we've really progressed. I wanted them to realize all they've done themselves. It's always a hard thing to have that last game that you play."

This was Meadow Heights' first year in the state playoffs. The furthest the Panthers had gotten before this season was second place in the district.

"It really was a great run for us," Nanney said. "We learned what it took to get to the final four today. Unfortunately, it wasn't us who got there. But we did get to see a final four, state-champion type caliber team that we got to play against."

@z_agate_HSbasketball_linescore:Meadow Hgts2895--54


@z_agate_no tab_no indnt_bld ld:COUCH (54) -- Crystal Britt 1, Tara Combs 9, Cassie Roberts 1, Whitney Mills 14, Jessica Jones 8, Lizzie Nessling 6, Laoren Wicker 15. FG 20, FT 8-13, F 21. (3-pointers: Combs 1, Mills 1. Fouled out: none)

MEADOW HEIGHTS (24) -- Erin Bollman 1, Gina Cureton 6, Heather Dietiker 4, Whitney Welker 6, Jillian Mills 3, Chelsey Kight 4. FG 7, FT 10-23, F 15. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: Kight)

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