DELTA, Mo. -- With senior starter Heather Dietiker unavailable, Meadow Heights girls basketball coach Mitch Nanney knew that he needed her teammates to step up to fill the void Saturday.
Led by 5-foot-9 junior Whitney Welker, Dietiker's teammates did just that, helping the Panthers roll to a 65-23 victory over St. Vincent in the championship game of the Delta New Year's girls basketball tournament.
Welker scored 17 of her game-high 21 points during the second and third quarters as the top-seeded Panthers broke open a tight game and cruised to their second lopsided win over St. Vincent this season.
St. Vincent, playing its fourth game in five days and less than 24 hours after a hard-fought two-point win over St. Pius on Friday, played with Meadow Heights until early in the second quarter.
Kali Wingerter's back-door layup brought the Indians within four points at 18-14 with 5 minutes, 20 seconds left in the quarter. Then the wheels came off for St. Vincent.
Meadow Heights finished the second quarter with a 16-2 run to lead 36-20 at halftime. It opened the third period with a 9-0 run. Welker dominated the paint and the baseline during the spurt.
The run mirrored what happened the first time the teams met. The Panthers (10-2) used a 24-0 run to gain separation from the Indians (7-4) when they played at Meadow Heights on Dec. 13.
Nanney said it took a little bit of time Saturday for his team to adjust to the new lineup, with senior Jillian Mills starting in place of Dietiker. Dietiker suffered a mild concussion during practice Friday and missed her first basketball game for Meadow Heights since the fifth grade.
"We got a little out of sorts there to start with," Nanney said about his team's slower-than-usual start.
He said the team made the necessary adjustments after the first period.
"Defensively, we got out in the passing lanes, rebounded the ball well and pushed the ball up the floor," Nanney said. "Offensively, we relaxed a little bit."
Welker said she and her teammates increased their intensity during the spurt.
"We were playing adequate the first quarter, but the second quarter we decided that, 'Hey, we can put this team away and we need to do it now,'" Welker said. "Everyone played their hardest on defense and offense."
St. Vincent coach Terry Wengert, whose team not only was playing its fourth game of the week but has been playing with only six players due to injury, said her team seemed to lose its legs after the first quarter.
"I was proud of the girls. They continued to battle the entire time," she said. "I just wish we could have given them a better game."
Meadow Heights is ranked eighth in the state poll. It has been to the state quarterfinals the past two seasons, but Nanney doesn't want to talk about the team's chances of advancing to the final four this year.
"We've got to get to the quarterfinals first," he said. "The kids have been there. They're hungry for moving on past the quarterfinal round, but they know there's a lot of work ahead of them to get to that spot."
Delta's suffocating defense limited Oran to less than 10 points in every quarter to earn the 57-23 win.
Tori Burton outscored the Eagles on her own with 24 points. Samantha Bartels and Machela VanGennip added 11 points apiece.
Cheyanne King paced Oran with nine points.
Delta only led by four points after one quarter but extended its lead to 20 points by halftime.
Keighlyn Lincoln scored 17 points and Josie Long added 16 in Woodland's 50-35 victory over Saxony Lutheran.
Ashley Acup added 12 points for the Cardinals.
Maci Daniel led the Crusaders with nine points.
MEADOW HEIGHTS 65, ST. VINCENT 32
MEADOW HEIGHTS (65) -- Mica Moore 3, Hattie Cook 5, Gina Cureton 8, Erin Bollmann 13, Whitney Welker 21, Jillian Mills 13, Heather Baremore 2. FG 29, FT 5, F 12. (3-pointers: Morse, Cook. Fouled out: none.)
ST. VINCENT (32) -- Courtney Heberlie 4, Dani Hogard 2, Kayla Seabaugh 4, Storm French 12, Kelci Besand 4, Kali Wingerter 6. FG 16, FT 0, F 9. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none)
DELTA 57, ORAN 23
DELTA (57) -- Rachel Bartels 4, Machela VanGennip 11, Macey Parks 7, Tori Burton 24, Samantha Bartels 11. FG 22, FT 9, F 15. (3-pointers: Barton, S. Bartels 3)
ORAN (23) -- Abbey Anderson 1, Taylor Nenninger 5, Haley Glastetter 4, Crissy Sauceda 3, Cheyanne King 9, Halle Woodfin 1. FG 6, FT 5, F 14. (3-pointers: Nenninger, Sauceda. Fouled out: none)
WOODLAND 50, SAXONY LUTHERAN 35
WOODLAND (50) -- Josie Long 16, Kathlyn Cooper 2, Ashley Acup 12, Keighlyn Lincoln 17, Lindsay Shell 2, Kendra Pinkley 1. FG 18, FT 12, F 12. (3-pointers: Long 2. Fouled out: Pinkley.)
SAXONY LUTHERAN (35) -- Kristin Dippold 2, Kristy Winter 2, Sarah Huey 1, Julia Steffens 6, Maci Daniel 9, Abby Hartmann 7, Natalie Mueller 8. FG 16, FT 3, F 13. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: Mueller)