As one of the best players to emerge from the Carroll High School girl's basketball program and one of the top career scorers at Manchester University, Kelley Meiklejohn has been in her share of big games as a player.
But this season has been a different experience for the first-year Snider girls' coach. Instead of making the plays, she is calling them from the sideline.
Nerves may be a factor for Meiklejohn when the Panthers hit the court in the regional semifinal game against No. 4 Logansport (24-1) on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. at Kokomo, but that is nothing new.
“I think I have had nerves every game this year,” Meiklejohn said. “But I have good support with the coaches around me. Having good players that like to work hard makes the games look easy.”
While their coach may lack experience coaching a big game, the Snider players have plenty of it when it comes to these situations. The Panthers are in their fourth consecutive regional, giving the upperclassmen a wealth of experience in deep playoff runs.
That could turn in to an advantage for Snider, with Logansport appearing in its first regional game since 2007.
“From the standpoint that our juniors and seniors have been there before, I think it is a good thing,” Meiklejohn said. “Our players can actually push each other and can prepare based on being there before.”
Not much will be easy come Saturday for the Panthers (20-3) in taking on a Berries team that is surrendering just over 39 points per game.
Logansport utilizes a zone defense to force opponents to shoot and make outside shots. The Berries have held 15 of its 25 opponents this season under 40 points for the game.
Offensively, Logansport is led by a pair of guards, sisters Rachel and Whitney Jennings. The two combine to average 38.8 points per game.
Whitney, a 5-foot-5 junior already committed to Iowa, is the unrivaled stat leader of Logansport. Not only does she lead the team in scoring, she also paces the Berries in assists (8.2 a game) and steals (4.2). She is also third on the team in rebounding with 4.6 a contest.
Sophomore Nakeya Penny is a threat in the paint, with the 5-foot-11 forward averaging 13.8 points and 5.9 rebounds a game.
“They look very disciplined and are a hard-working team,” Meiklejohn said of Logansport. “We have to come out in a good defensive mindset and we have made rebounding a focus all week.”
With Snider's advantage in having been at this level in the past, the first few minutes may be key as Logansport acclimates itself to the atmosphere, although playing reasonably close to home in Kokomo will give the Berries a likely fan advantage.
“I think the first three minutes of the game set the tone, and our girls like to get the momentum and come out strong,” Meiklejohn said. “Some shots may not fall in the first few minutes, but we cannot let up on defense.”
The butterflies will likely be there for Meiklejohn come Saturday, but there is no doubt her team will be prepared.