This time around, no tempers flared and no punches were thrown. Cooler heads prevailed, but one team got beat up rather handily on the scoreboard.
The Meade girls basketball team scored the first 15 points of the game against North County on Friday en route to a 72-23 win in a Class 4A East, Region I quarterfinal. The Mustangs move on and will travel to Old Mill for a 5:30 semifinal contest on Monday.
The last time these two teams met just two weeks ago, the game had to be halted when a scuffle broke out in the fourth quarter with Meade ahead. The game was called at that juncture, with the win going to the Mustangs. Subsequently, the boys game, which was to follow, was postponed to a later date.
The Mustangs’ defense was spectacular throughout the contest, limiting the Knights to just seven field goals on 34 attempts, a 20.6 shooting percentage. North County committed 29 turnovers, with six coming in the opening four minutes of the game when the Mustangs sprinted out to the 15-0 advantage.
“(Our defense) is what we are known for. That is the thing we work on the most in practice,” Aanika O’Connor said. “These girls have the heart and the ability to play aggressive defense from start to finish. So that’s what we continue to just stress upon them. That’s the thing we do. That’s our bread and butter.”
Zaynah Robinson came out firing from the start, jacking up a 3-pointer just 40 seconds into the game. She followed with another 3-point attempt, but was fouled and made all three shots from the charity stripe. Ayanni Brown got in on the action with a trey of her own, and later hit a field goal that made it 15-0 with 3 minutes, 55 seconds left in the opening quarter. In between, Symphonie Bryant-Brown made her first three and Reid hit a free throw.
Charia Johnson’s two free throws finally got North County on the board, but the quarter ended with the hosts ahead 21-5. After the first eight minutes, North County had yet to sink a field goal.
“I think our mindset was to just keep pushing,” Robinson said. “We just wanted to win this game and get to the next. I think we did great on defense. It was just our mindset. We pushed and honestly just played good defense.”
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It was more of the same in the second quarter, with the exception that North County’s Aireona Holland briefly caught fire, scoring eight of her team-leading 12 points in a 1:50 span in the middle of the frame. However, Robinson almost matched her output with six points and Bryant-Brown added five as Meade moved out to a 40-14 lead at intermission.
With the 26-point lead, all of Meade’s players in uniform had their chance to show their talent, resulting in every player in the scorebook netting points with Robinson leading the way with 15. Bryant-Brown followed with 13, while Jaela Reid and Carlissa Hill each provided eight.
“We have shooters. We have girls that have put in a lot of work in the offseason and they came out with the ability to put the ball in the basket,” O’Conner said. “So we don’t ever want to restrict them from what they are able to do. We want to let them play their game.”
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For the Knights, Johnson and Jayln Baynard each scored three points, while Brianna Hopkins and Morgan Youngbar had just two points apiece.
“(Meade) had a lot to do with our turnovers and our shooting. They are a really good team. They are better than a good team,” North County coach Dan Mangum said. “They’re quick, they have all the ingredients. They can shoot, they can run, they can pass and they can handle the ball. It is tough to defend. I give them all the credit in the world. They’re a great team.
“We just tried to calm the girls down after that start and try to get back to basics. If we can’t make a pass with them pressing, then their speed and quickness just turns you over right away and they convert,” added Mangum, who was playing without two starters. “They have a shot to win it all.”
“Every game, we look to go in and compete. No matter what the outcome is going to be or no matter how we played the game before,” O’Conner said. “We take it one game at a time. When we step on the floor, we look to compete and leave it all in between the lines. So that’s what we are looking for on Monday.”