Cobden puts away Meridian late
Franklin (s), Brumleve lead Appleknockers to league road victory
MOUNDS – To even the most casual boy's high school basketball fan in the deep part of southern Illinois, the Mounds Meridian Bobcats have been “commander and chief” of South Egyptian Conference for the last decade.

With only one loss in just over 10 years of regular season league contests, this program dominated regular season meetings.

And on Tuesday night late in the third quarter, Coach Jared Staple's Bobcats looked like they were going to rally for yet another SEC win.

After trailing visiting Cobden by as many as 13 points in the first three quarters of play, the hosts staged a comeback that got them within two points at 46-44 heading into the final frame.

However a costly foul at the beginning of the fourth, which subsequently turned into a technical foul, changed the momentum and the outcome of the matchup.

Meridian freshman guard and leading scorer Roderick Gatewood went for a steal near the halfcourt line and was called for a personal foul, his fourth of the night.

Then he was whistled for a technical foul, which was his fifth and disqualifying personal.

The visiting Appleknockers jumped at the opportunity that was presented.

Coach Wendell Wheeler saw his club reel off 18 consecutive points in a near six minute span, completely flipping the script and sending Meridian to its first regular season loss in three seasons.

“This (win) was huge for us. We had never beaten them (Meridian) in a conference game. When we beat them in the tournament (Vienna) I'm not sure if we (Cobden) had ever beaten them ever,” said Coach Wheeler. “Back in the day Cobden had beaten Mounds and Mounds City but we couldn't find a Meridian win in the records. And to beat them here is big, too.”

Led by double doubles by both junior forward Noah Franklin and senior Joe Brumleve, the Appleknockers won an important SEC road game, 67-50, pushing their regular season mark to 7-2 while taking the lead in the league standings at 2-0.

The 6-foot-6 junior Franklin scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the victory for Cobden.

Six-foot-five forward Brumleve added 17 points and snagged 11 rebounds as these two dominated the glass in the triumph.

Brumleve was back after missing three games due to injury.

Not to be outdone, 6-foot-3 freshman guard Tyler Franklin added 12 points to go with five rebounds.

Six of his points came in a fourth quarter run.

Senior guard Dylan Lewey pitched in nine points and dished out six assists.

“A year ago, we lose that game,” said Coach Wheeler about nearly surrendering a huge lead. “But a year of being together, having a good summer and off-season and the improvement of Lewey. He has improved as much as any kid I've ever had. If you look at him from last year until now. Tonight was the first game where we have been completely healthy.”

Meridian was led by Gatewood with 19 points while no other Bobcats' player hit double-figures.

The Bobcats, firing away from the outside, didn't shoot well enough to get the win.

Meridian ended up just 16-of-59 overall (27.1 percent).

In the meantime, the Appleknockers were a robust 23-of-39 overall (58.9 percent) and they also held a 34-19 rebounding margin.

Statistics like this usually lead one to believe that this was truly a lopsided affair throughout.

But 12 turnovers by Cobden, including a rash of six miscues in a third quarter stretch, allowed Meridian to get close.

There were seven first quarter lead changes before Coach Wheeler's club went on their first run of the night to take the lead for keeps.

Noah Franklin began, and ended, the 13-2 run.

It turned a 15-14 deficit into a 27-17 lead early in the second period.

Both Lewey and Franklin hit 3-pointers in succession to close the run.

The largest lead in the first half occurred with a bucket by senior Jose Lopez and senior Landon Britt.

That made the score 31-18 with under two minutes left before the half.

“He (Noah Franklin) can do everything. We put him on the wing, we post him up, he is a backup point guard. We ask a lot of him,” said Coach Wheeler. “With Brumleve inside and Dylan Lewey running the point for us, we can do some things. I thought Meridian put outstanding pressure on us.”

Meridian closed the gap and the half with points from junior Miguel Brown, senior Zion Bartlett and freshman Tristen Mackins.

Brown scored in the lane while Bartlett and Brown added 3-of-5 free throws.

A 3-pointer from Gatewood closed the half with Cobden up 32-26.

Things looked pretty comfortable in the Cobden camp after a 12-3 run to begin the second half.

Brumleve scored three times inside in the scoring move while Noah Franklin also scored in the paint.

When Franklin stuck back an offensive rebound with 3:48 left in the stanza, the Appleknockers were cruising along at 44-29.

Gatewood canned three of his four 3-pointers of the night in a 13-2 run.

Senior Marshall Rayford scored inside for the Bobcats and a driving lay in by senior Jaylen Easley got the hosts to within 46-44 at the end of the third.

Cobden committed six of its 12 turnovers in the third, with four coming during the Meridian scoring march.

The Easley bucket was the final highlight of the night for the Bobcats, who saw their overall mark slip to 2-5 and just 1-1 in the SEC.

Zander Kaufman, a junior guard, scored eight points for Meridian while Rayford added seven.

The Appleknockers have a pair of home games coming up on the slate with a conference matchup against Shawnee and a non-league battle against rival Anna-Jonesboro on Saturday.

Meridian will hop on the bus to visit both SEC mate Dongola on Friday and Goreville on Saturday.

The Appleknockers were named the number five seed in the upcoming Sesser-Valier Holiday Tournament.

Coach Wheeler's squad will face Johnston City in the tournament opener at 9 am on December 26.

“We have the early game and that's a pretty good drive up there from Cobden so we will get up early and see what happens,” said Coach Wheeler.

The Appleknockers won the consolation championship of the SVHT last season after losing to JC in the opening round.

Meridian will make its first appearance at the Pinckneyville “Duster Thomas Classic” December 26-28.

Mounds Meridian

Cobden (67) – N. Franklin 5 2 6-8 22, Lewey 0 1 5-6 8, Brumleve 8 0 1-2 17, Remsey 0 0 0-0 0, T. Franklin 5 0 2-2 12, Lopez 2 0 0-0 4, Britt 2 0 1-2 5.
2FG-23, 3FG-3, FT-15-20, PF-13.

Mounds Meridian (50) – Mackins 1 0 2-3 5, Easley 1 0 1-2 3, Amerson 0 0 0-0 0, Bartlett 0 1 1-2 4, Kaufman 1 2 0-0 8, Brown 1 1 0-0 5, Rayford 1 0 5-6 7, Gatewood 3 4 1-2 19.
2FG-8, 3FG-8, FT-10-15, PF-19.

Fouled Out – Gatewood - Mounds Meridian.
Technical Fouls – Gatewood - Mounds Meridian.