Lady Knights win third straight title

When the Thomas Dale Lady Knights took the floor on Friday night in the Central District final, it would be the fifth meeting between them and the Monarchs of Meadowbrook. It would be a game in which Thomas Dale got the best of the Monarchs by a score of 56-43, securing the Lady Knights third straight regular season district championship and tournament championship.

“There’s no one word to describe it really, three in a row,” said senior guard Ka’lia Johnson.  “We work hard every day, day in and day out, this is what we hoped to accomplish.”

Thomas Dale started the game on a high note, ripping off an 11-2 run to start the game, led by Johnson.  The Duke signee capped the run with a right angle three. However, Meadowbrook would fire back, as Meadowbrook would score 8 of the quarter’s last eleven points, capped by back-to-back baskets by Meadowbrook sophomore guard, Ashley Pegram.
Johnson scored 11 of Dale’s 13 first quarter points, and Dale led 13-10.

In the second frame, Meadowbrook would continue their run, which stretched out to 14-2, capped by a Katrina Marks jumper, driving Meadowbrook to the lead, 16-13. The Knights answered off of a Bianca Ross post-up and a Johnson steal and lay-in. Meadowbrook would take another brief lead off a Pegram bucket at 22-20, but that would be their last lead, and they trailed at the half 24-23.

“I thought Ross really stepped it up today with her rebounding,” said Johnson. “She also played really well on defense.”

Then, the Lady Knights started to pull away. A couple minutes into the fourth quarter, ignited by a three by Shawnee Sweeney, the Knights would rip off a 13-2 run.  Meadowbrook was able to end the quarter with a couple of baskets by Torie Cunningham and Kiara Marks to cut the lead to nine, heading into the fourth.

“Meadowbrook looked a little tired in the second half,” said Thomas Dale head coach Kevin Coffey. “Winning Monday in the playoff game was key for us, getting that extra rest.”

In the fourth, the lead would be stretched out to as much as 21 by Dale on a basket by forward Megan Knickerbocker. The Lady Knights opened the fourth quarter on a 13-0 run and imposed their will on defense, forcing the up-tempo Meadowbrook to play their slower style of basketball.

“It just boiled down that in the second half,” said Meadowbrook coach Danny Connor. “We didn’t do very much well, unfortunately, kind of a meltdown,” he continued. “I’m still scratching my head about that one.”

Thomas Dale was led by Johnson, who had a game high of 21 points to go along with 12 rebounds and three steals.  Sweeney chipped in with six assists for the Knights, who also got a strong performance from junior, Tequora Benefield. Meadowbrook was led by Pegram, who tallied 17 points on the evening.

Meadowbrook was without the services of standout sophomore guard, Brittany Nicholson, who suffered a concussion against Colonial Heights. Katrina Marks was also nursing a leg injury.

“We had to approach the game a little differently due to the injuries,” said Connor.  “We had a different game plan this time and it worked early, but in the fourth we were like a stick in the mud.”

The meeting between the two teams tonight was their fifth, but the regional bracket could lead the two to a sixth match-up if things fall into place. The teams had previously split five matches, with Meadowbrook winning their two games by six and 14 points, and Thomas Dale winning their two games by six and four points, including the playoff for the top seed early last week.

“After five games, everything is put out on the table,” said Coffey.

“You just say, alright, here it is and you just go at it. Playing a team five times, that’s as tough as it gets.”

Both teams will began the week in the regionals, and as the top two seeds coming out of the Central District, both earned the right to host first round games at home. Stay tuned for your coverage of the regionals in next week’s Village News.

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