With postseason hopes running high, so was the pressure self-inflicted on the Meadowdale Lady Mavericks Friday as the team began play in the District 1 3A Girls Basketball Tournament.
The stress of wanting to get out of the gate strong, combined with a pressing Snohomish Panthers defense, proved too much as the Mavericks were blitzed early and then never fully recovered, ultimately succumbing to the Panthers 57-39 at Snohomish High School.
“We buried ourselves too deep a hole,” said Meadowdale coach Arie Mahler. “You know, 13 turnovers in the first half is going to kill you.”
The 13 first-half turnovers by the Mavs matched their point total as the team trailed at the intermission 27-13. The deficit could have been even worse if it wasn’t for a Lilly Williams 3-pointer just before the first-quarter buzzer and then another 3-ball in the second quarter — the only Meadowdale points of that period.
Meadowdale got within nine points at 30-21 midway through the third quarter but ran out of gas, unable to keep up with the more energized Panthers.
Snohomish, the No. 4 seed in the district tourney, had plenty of help in building their early advantage as the Mavs scored with a Fatoumata Jaiteh lay-in on their first possession, then committed turnovers on their next four. Taking advantage of the Meadowdale miscues (along with a few more over the next few minutes), Snohomish ran out to a 18-7 lead before the first quarter ended.
Mahler acknowledged that the gravity of the postseason’s opening game played a part in his team’s early jitters.
“It’s the first district (tournament) game, so nerves are going to play a little bit of a role,” Mahler said. “But we just didn’t appear to be playing basketball. We were just so tight.”
“My seniors — Soriah (Swinton) and Lilly and Alicia (Morrison) and Maia (Austvold) — they want to go out, they want to go farther this year,” Mahler added. “So I think that does add a little pressure to them, right?”
Last year the Mavs finished third in the district tourney, good enough to get them a berth in a state tournament regional game. That regional round contest ended with a one-point Meadowdale loss, finishing the Mavs’ season one game short of a trip to the Tacoma Dome for more state tourney action.
In Friday’s defeat at Snohomish, Lilly Williams led the Mavericks with 11 points. Snohomish junior Kayla Soderstrom had a game-high 20 points — 16 in the second half — to cement the Panthers’ victory.
Mahler was glum following the Mav’s loss. “We didn’t give our best showing,” he said. “I know that our team is better than that. But we live to fight another day.”
With the setback, the No. 5-seeded Mavericks will now have to win three straight district tournament contests to match their third-place tourney finish and accompanying regional appearance of last year. While the task is challenging, Mahler encouraged his squad during Friday’s postgame locker room message.
“We’re not done. We’ve got to take the longer road is what I told them,” Mahler stated. “I said the journey’s not over, it’s just a little bit longer now. And this is the road we went down last year. They’re a smart team; they know what they need to do, they know what they need to do differently and I believe they’ll go out and they’ll execute.”
Meadowdale will next take on No. 8 seed Everett in a district tournament loser-out game on Tuesday, Feb. 18; tipoff at Meadowdale High School is set for 7 p.m.
You can view the entire 2020 District 1 3A Girls Basketball Tournament bracket here.
Prep Girls Basketball: Meadowdale at Snohomish, Feb. 14 (District 1 3A Girls Basketball Tournament first round game)
Meadowdale 10 3 11 15 — 39
Snohomish 18 9 13 17 — 57
Meadowdale individual scoring: Lilly Williams 11, Kaisha Stark 8, Allicia Morrison 6, Soriah Swinton 6, Fatoumata Jaiteh 6, Ava Powell 2, Jenaly Gabriel, Jordan Leith, Nicole Dallas, McKenna Kuecker, Silja Knutsen
Snohomish individual scoring: Kayla Soderstrom 20, Ella Gallatin 12, Cheyenne Rodgers 11, Kaylin Beckman 10, Kinslee Gallatin 2, Gracie VanAssche 2, Averie Allbaugh, Kali Cole, Jada Andresen
Records: Meadowdale 14-7 overall; Snohomish 11-10 overall
Meadowdale next game: versus Everett; Tuesday, Feb. 18; 7 p.m. at Meadowdale High School (District 1 3A Girls Basketball Tournament loser-out game)
— By Doug Petrowski