By David Pan/Lynnwood Today editor
Meadowdale coach Marcus Merrifield didn’t like what he saw from his team during the second quarter against Everett in a 3A District 1 girls basketball tournament game.
After playing the Seagulls to a 13-13 tie in the first period, the Mavericks seemed to lack energy the entire second quarter and went into halftime trailing 27-16.
“I challenged them,” Merrifield said of his halftime talk with the players. “This isn’t an adjustment problem. This is an effort, energy and focus problem and they came out and responded.”
Senior guard Kearstin Franco ignited the comeback, scoring a season-high 21 points to lead Meadowdale to a 51-45 victory Wednesday night at Everett High School.
“Seniors came and played well,” Merrifield said. “Juniors came in and responded. People stepped up. I’m just really proud of their effort, executing what we wanted them to do.”
Meadowdale faces Edmonds District rival Mountlake Terrace in a winner-to-regionals game at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 15 at Lynnwood High School.
The Mavericks (8-13 overall) started chipping away at the 11-point Everett halftime lead and cut it to 1 point midway through period. But it was a pair of free throws by Meadowdale’s Ndey Sonko that tied the game at 34 with 22.2 seconds left in the third quarter. Everett then responded with a basket and went into the fourth quarter with a 36-34 lead.
Following a miss by the Seagulls (12-9), Mackenzie Bretz, who finished with 14 points, sank a 3-pointer to give Meadowdale a 37-36 lead at the 7:36 mark. A 3-pointer by Franco boosted the Mavericks’ advantage to 40-36.
Everett eventually tied the score at 40 before Franco hit another 3-pointer as the Mavericks took a 43-40 lead with 3:12 remaining in the game. Franco later drove through the lane and made a lay-up to give Meadowdale a 45-41 lead with 2:33 left.
“Kearstin Franco came out in the second half and just willed us to the win and brought us back,” Merrifield said. “It (11-point halftime deficit) could have gone to 20.”
Missed free throws hurt Everett in the fourth quarter. The Seagulls made only 3 out of 8 attempts and weren’t much better the rest of the game.
With Meadowdale ahead 48-45 with 26.5 seconds left in the game, Sonko missed a free throw but Hailey Costello got the rebound and was fouled. Costello made both of her free throws to extend the Meadowdale lead to 50-45.
“We feel real good about the win because we wanted to prove everybody wrong,” Franco said. “Not one thought that we could make it. Everyone thought that we weren’t ranked closely to any of these teams. It feels great to know that we can actually compete with any team in the district tournament.”
During the regular season, Everett edged Meadowdale 51-48. Merrifield noted that the Mavericks missed a number of free throws in that game.
“I thought we had the right game plan,” he added. “We just didn’t make the plays.”
Added Franco, “We knew could do it (win) this time.”
Meadowdale’s overall record of 8-13 was partly a result of an extremely tough non-league schedule. Ten of the Mavericks’ games this season were against teams ranked in the top 5 in state.
“We’re battled tested,” Merrifield said. “We didn’t get the wins we needed to make it easy to get to the playoffs but we made it. We won the games that we needed to.”