PARK HILLS — The Bismarck girls basketball program saw its first venture into the state playoffs since 1990 meet a difficult roadblock in the form of another hungry newcomer to post-season action on Wednesday night.
Meadow Heights displayed poise beyond its youth by converting 10-of-12 free throws during the final 1:33, and moved to within one win of a Class 2 final-four appearance in just its fourth year of existence.
The Lady Panthers received balanced scoring with four starters in double figures, and withstood another brilliant performance from Lady Indians star Brooke Taylor for an entertaining 74-70 triumph at Central High School.
Freshman forward Whitney Welker totaled 24 points with 13 rebounds to pace Meadow Heights, and enjoyed a dominant stretch in the post with three huge baskets during the fourth quarter.
Sophomore Heather Dietiker netted 21 points in the victory, and her transition layup created a 64-57 margin with 3:34 remaining after Welker powered in a third-chance putback.
Bismarck (22-5) began chipping away when Taylor blocked a shot and raced the other way for a pull-up jumper, but Meadow Heights protected its lead by effectively stalling and making its next five attempts from the charity stripe.
Taylor, who finished 9-for-10 overall from the line and achieved her 23rd double-double this season with 40 points and 11 rebounds, kept the Lady Indians in contention with a three-pointer from the left corner.
Freshman center Brettnie Henson scored on an inbounds play with 20 seconds left following a jump ball to make it 72-70, but sophomore guard Hattie Cook sealed the outcome with another perfect trip to the line.
Cook tallied 14 points including three of her team’s seven triples, and senior Ashley Doublin chipped in 11 as the Lady Panthers advanced to meet Couch (26-3) in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
Meadow Heights committed only 10 turnovers and led throughout much of the night after three different players connected from long range in the opening stanza, but never extended the difference beyond seven points.
Bismarck won the overall rebounding margin with Holly Blunt and Torrie Helms each contributing nine, and their collective hustle provided a needed spark before halftime.
Helms finished a strong 1-on-1 move inside and found Blunt on a backdoor cut moments later. A diving steal by Blunt preceded a three from Taylor with time winding down, but Cook answered with a pivotal triple at the buzzer for a 39-35 Meadow Heights advantage.
Bismarck battled back with a promising 9-2 run in the third quarter, and briefly pulled ahead 47-45 on a leaner from Taylor after Blunt evened the score with a driving layup.
But the Lady Panthers were afforded several open looks by a late-reacting Bismarck defense, and Dietiker began the final period with her second three-pointer in a two-minute span to restore a 54-48 lead.
Helms scored 12 points and Blunt tallied nine in her final high school game. Henson added eight off the Lady Indians’ bench.
Bismarck 12 23 13 22 – 70
Meadow Heights 18 21 12 23 – 74
Bismarck – Taylor 40, Helms 12, Blunt 9, B Henson 8, Fenwick 1. 3-point FG – Taylor 3.
Meadow Heights – Welker 24, Dietiker 21, Cook 14, Doublin 11, Kight 2, Cureton 2. 3-point FG – Cook 3, Dietiker 2, Doublin 2.