MOUNDS — Goreville and Meridian were locked in a classic back-and-forth battle as time clicked off the clock in the Class 1A Meridian regional championship.
Goreville’s Blackcats had fought off a Meridian charge in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter and were nursing a precarious four-to-six point lead. Then, with 2:52 remaining, Peyton Massey hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
The trey energized the Blackcats, carrying them to a 67-60 win.
“That was a back breaker,” said Meridian coach Erik Griffin. “That was probably the dagger right there that really made it tougher for us to get over the hump. They had another possession where they ran 45 seconds to a minute off the clock, we lost somebody and they score. It makes it tough.”
“Not only that three there, but that three to start the game and those two free throws to get him started,” said Goreville coach Todd Tripp.
The regional title game was a classic game of runs. Tanner Dunn’s layup gave Goreville a 42-34 lead with 3:10 to play in the third quarter. But, the Blackcats failed to score for the rest of the quarter. Then, Meridian opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run, capped by Darnell Lowe’s lay-up in heavy traffic.
Lowe’s bucket gave the Bobcats a 45-42 lead with 6:30 to play.
Dunn broke the Meridian run with a putback and Morgan Bishop added a lay up to give the Blackcats a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“Tanner Dunn, bottom line we have an all-stater in (Braden) Webb, but, Tanner Dunn, how he goes, we go,” Tripp said. “He had 12 points and 18 rebounds tonight. He’s that athletic. He’s that good. He’s coming on at the end.”
“Everytime we made a run to cut into the lead they’d come down and hit a big shot or we’d lose somebody and they’d get a wide-open layup,” Griffin said. “Basketball is a game of runs. We fought. That’s all I could ask from the kids. I never had to coach effort all year. It was one of those things. It wasn’t our night tonight.”
The Blackcats stretched the lead to 11 points with just over a minute to go, but Meridian cut the lead to six on a couple of occasions.
“You knew they are going to make a run,” Tripp said. “They have weapons. Lowe is a stud. He is so good. We did such a good job on the other guys his night didn’t hurt us as much.”
“We stuck to the game plan. We rebounded.”
Lowe led the Bobcats with 28 points.
For Meridian, it was just one of those nights.
“We didn’t take very many bad shots,” Griffin said. “We missed a lot of good shots. You can’t fault kids for that. Those are shots those guys make over and over again. It’s one of those crazy things it happened in our gym.”
In addition to Dunn’s dozen, Goreville got 29 points from Webb and 15 from Massey. Goreville advances to the Hardin County Sectional.