Dragons Advance to Class 1A Championship Contest

Meintel powers Cameron with 19 points, 11 boards

Photo by Josh Strope Cameron’s Autumn Gossett (4) ties up Madonna’s Kasey Canei during an OVAC Girls’ Basketball Championship semifinal Monday night in Cameron. The Dragons’ Kelsie Meintel is defending on the play as Kori Scott (13) looks on.

Meintel powers Cameron with 19 points, 11 boardsCAMERON — Cameron hasn’t been challenged much this season so when Madonna jumped out to a 13-4 first-quarter lead, Dragons coach Roger Cain didn’t panic. He didn’t even call timeout. He wanted to see what his team was made of.

Cain definitely liked what he saw.

Senior leader Kelsie Meintel powered her way to eight straight points to give Cameron a lead and it never looked back en route to a 40-30 victory in a Wheeling Hospital OVAC Girls’ Basketball Championships semifinal.

The Dragons are in the Class 1A title game for the first time and will seek their initial title Saturday at Ohio University Eastern in a 7 p.m. showdown with Beallsville, a 40-36 winner against Trinity.

“It was a tough, physical game,” Cain said. “If you qualify for the OVACs, you know you are going to be facing a quality opponent.

“We had the slow start and I believed in our veterans. I let them play a little bit and I didn’t call timeout because I wanted to see how we faced adversity. We did really well battling back with that veteran group and finally got our stuff together. Few shots were falling, but we definitely struggled to make some shots.”

Meintel showed why she is a returning all-stater by using her size and quickness inside to drive to the hoop. She ended the first and began the second with a free throw before three straight field goals gave Cameron a 14-13 lead.

On defense, she was wasn’t shy from getting into the thick of the action and made things tough on any Blue Don that dare entered the paint.

Cameron held Madonna to two points — an Andrea Alimario basket at the 2-minute mark — in the second quarter.

The Dragons built a comfortable lead, but late in the third quarter, Madonna used a 7-0 to close to within one.

Meintel’s putback at the end of the quarter stretched the lead back to three and set the tone for the fourth.

“I think early on we may have been trying to feed it into her too much and we weren’t getting any movement offensively,” Cain said. “She did a heckuva job of taking care of business. That run she went on was a big turning point for us and helped us stay in front and get confidence.”

With Madonna back in striking distance, Cameron finally separated itself from the pesky Blue Dons with two big 3-pointers — one each from Jordyn Hughes and Courtney Walker.

A Walker floater that banked in and two Meintel free throws gave Cameron its first double-digit lead and the Dragons were able to run out the clock from there.

“We came in and played a very disciplined, seasoned team,” Madonna coach Rodney Boniti said. “We only had one game film, but they didn’t surprise us. Everything we saw in that one game was what we prepared for. They got a few shots to drop in the second and same in the third.

“We have had so many injuries and I don’t think some of my girls had their legs under them. We are going to match up with Cameron again in the sectionals and I am excited to see how we fare when we get all these girls healthy. We are looking forward to that second challenge. This is a pretty competitive section and region.”

Walker chipped in with 10 points for the Dragons (19-1).

Alimario had a monster game for the Blue Dons (8-11) with 16 points and 15 rebounds.

Next up for the Dragons is a date with history in the final championship game of the weekend.

“First one in school history, we are really excited for this opportunity,” he said. “We don’t really know a lot about Beallsville, but we expect a hard-fought game. We will be prepared.”