MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) Meridian's 57 point loss to pearl in last season's playoffs changed everything. The Lady Cats used that loss as motivation in the offseason to emerge this year as an entirely new team.
But now Meridian's motivation has shifted as the Lady Cats have their eyes on bringing home a state championship for the first time in program history, and they are more determined than ever to make that happen. With Wednesday’s semifinal playoff matchup against Clinton, the Lady Cats know to win that would put them one step closer to making that happen.
Sophomore guard Dabreasha Powe, who was a major addition to the team after transferring from Lamar, expressed her feelings on the semifinal matchup being less than 24 hours away.
“I can’t even think straight," Powe said. "I’m like ‘oh my gosh’ semifinals! We here and I want to win this so bad.”
For Meridian, the desire to win a state title for the first time in program history is more about laying the groundwork for the future than enjoying the short term benefit of being a champion.
“I want it more so for the future than the present because I need those junior high kids," head coach Deneshia Faulkner explained. "I need those kids who are in elementary, especially the girls, to know that it is definitely within reach.”
Similar to the Lady Cats MHSAA Quarterfinal matchup against Brandon, Meridian has already had a taste of Clinton’s style of play after facing them in the regular season.
One of the keys to the team's success this season has been their ability to stop opponents defensively – especially when in a full or half court press. Just as it has been all season, the Lady Cats believe playing hard defensively will be their ticket to championship.
Senior guard Tyana Clark emphasized how important defense is to the team's ability to win.
“The key to winning? Defense," Clark said. "There will be some games where our shots don’t fall, but we can control the defense if everybody works hard and puts forward the effort and energy, that will get it for us.”
"Defense is always the answer," Coach Faulkner added. "I tell the kids a lot, regardless of how great of a shooter you are, sometimes you just can’t make the ball go in.”
The team recognizes how important this final week of basketball is for its seniors and how special it would to send them off as state champions.
"Just being able to play with these girls has been awesome. These seniors that are leaving us," Powe said. "Just to have the chance to be with them for their last year has been special.”
“They definitely teach us a lot," Coach Faulkner said. "There’s a lot for us to take away from this senior class. It’s very special.”