It's awfully early in the season to say any game is a must-win, but for the No. 14 Mustangs, who had to forfeit an early league game for playing too many games in a single week, the 85-65 win over the No. 7 Seahawks was about as big as it gets.
The victory gives the Mustangs (4-4) the edge over South River (7-2) in the Anne Arundel County league standings. Both are 3-1, but if both were to win the rest of their games, the Mustangs would win the county title and advance to the District V title game against the Howard County league champion based on this head-to-head win.
Tuesday night, the Mustangs took an early 22-14 lead, but the Seahawks rallied, thanks in part to Taylor Bresnahan, who scored 17 of her 25 points in the first half. Bresnahan fed Melanie Long for a 12-footer with 2:19 left in the first half to give the Seahawks their 29-28 edge.
After the Mustangs rallied to a 40-29 lead at the half, they extended it to 54-38 as 5-foot-9 McKeither and 5-foot-10 Henson combined for the first 14 points of the third quarter and scored all but two of Meade's 24 points in the quarter.
"Those are post players that we've really been working on," Meade coach Reggie Leach said. "We don't have big girls. We don't have 6-foot-1, 5-foot-11, so we work on position. Even the coaches get out there and work with them, so they can work against a bigger body. [Tuesday night,] we were getting the transition, dishing it off. The girls were running the baseline and they were finishing."
The Mustangs also got 18 points — 12 in the final quarter — from point guard Imani Bailey and 15 from guard Chenelle Witty.
The Seahawks were coming off a 75-73 double-overtime win over then-No. 7 Joppatowne at Fallston's Vern Brown Memorial last week, but they were consistently beaten down court and overwhelmed on the inside against Meade.
"We're going to be undersized, but this was effort. Our effort wasn't there," South River coach Mike Zivic said. "It wasn't Xs and Os, it was nothing but effort. They wanted the basketball more than we did and they got it."
The Seahawks were without their strongest inside player, Aleeyah Hopkins, who has been sidelined most of the season with a knee injury.
Guard Domonique Hagins scored 22 of her 27 points in the second half, and helped pull South River within nine early in the fourth quarter. The Mustangs, however, never let up despite losing Henson for some of the third quarter and much of the fourth with a cramp in her left calf.
M—Bailey 18, McKeither 22, Banks 2, Witty 15, Williams 4, Henson 24. Totals 31 20-33 85.
SR—Bolden 2, Hagins 27, Bresnahan 25, McKinney 2, Long 5, Kovalick 1, Young 1. Totals 24 13-25 65. Half: M, 40-29.