The Brandon Bulldogs hit a heave from halfcourt at the halftime buzzer to cut the Wildcats lead to 29-22, but they were unable to capitalize on the momentum-shifting play in the second half of Friday night’s game at Meridian High (15-4).
The Bulldogs further cut into the Wildcats’ lead early in the third quarter to make it a 32-28 game before the Wildcats held off the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter to take the game 53-43.
“I think we guarded extremely well,” Meridian coach Ron Norman said. “We played this like a playoff game, and I was really proud of the way our kids responded tonight.”
Jordan Jones scored nine points in the second half to put away Brandon. Norman said the junior was the difference in the game.
“He’s played every position since he’s been here, one through five, even though he’s 5-foot-11,” Norman said. “He’s just our utility knife. We can play him anywhere on the floor, he can handle, he can shoot, get to the basket with the best of them.”
D.J. Johnson, another Meridian junior, helped the Wildcats build a lead in the first half. The Wildcats will continue to lean on Johnson during region play following his improvement throughout the season, according to Norman.
“Made some big shots in the place of a starter, Devin Portis, who was kind of nicked up tonight with his ankle, so he had a really good first half,” Norman said.
The Wildcats may need more bench players to step into larger roles if injuries mount up as the end of the season approaches, or if Norman decides to give his starters increased rest prior to playoffs.
As is, this Meridian squad is primed to finish region play strong before making some noise in the postseason, especially if the Wildcats can continue to play at their pace.
“(Brandon) is going to be in the mix in 6A when it’s all said and done,” Norman said. “I think we did a good job keeping it at our pace, we didn’t get up and down running with them, so I think we controlled the game.”