The Mounds Meridian Bobcats had something happen to them last season that hadn't happen since 2009.

They lost a South Egyptian Conference game.

Elverado pulled off the shocker, topping the Bobcats, 63-55 to force a three-way tie for the league title, something that Meridian hadn't shared in that same time frame.

But this crew regrouped and managed to win the Cobden 1A Regional before losing to Woodlawn in the sectional at NCOE.

Head coach Erik Griffith returns to the bench this season for his fourth season in charge of these 'Cats.

He made a bold move last season, toughening up a schedule that saw the club go just 14-16 overall.

However the teams and competition that they played toughened the squad up and this trend should continue this season with the same sort of schedule.

Coach Griffith lost some key players to graduation with Byron Nesby, TJ Nichols, Jabare Patrick (all of whom started at some point during last season), Malik Pratt and Jonathan White leaving the program.

That is a lot of points and minutes to replace.

Nevertheless, the Bobcats always seem to have more talent coming in a very deep pool of athletes.

Meridian will turn to some kids, with varying degrees of experience, as they tackle yet another tough slate of games.

Five-foot-eleven senior guard JaQuan Jones was a starter last season and was one of the top players in the area.

Darnell Lowe, a 6-foot-6 senior swingman, also returns after a junior season of success.

Damareon Nicholson, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, and 6-foot-4 senior forward Demond Vasser are both ready.

Those four have the most varsity playing time from a year ago of the returnees.

Coach Griffith also expects key contributions from some others who played enough last year to earn letters.

Six-foot-one junior guard Eddie Robertson also is back along with 5-foot-11 senior Jalil Amerson, 6-foot-1 junior Kendrick Blake, and 5-foot-8 Devin Amerson.

The bench looks deep and more than resourceful.

Six-foot-six senior Mario Young, 5-foot-11 junior Trevon Morris, 6-foot junior George Rayford, 6-foot-2 Cameron Moore-Rushing, 5-foot-8 Norris Young and 5-foot-8 sophomore Jaylen Easley will help out when needed to perform.

“We have a good core group returning that experienced a lot of highs and lows last year,” said Coach Griffith. “We have to achieve a greater level of consistency and show the ability to compete every game if we want to be successful. Seniors Darnell Lowe and Demareon Nicholson could both surpass the 1,000 point mark for their careers with increased production and they will also be in pursuit of their fourth straight regional championship.”

OUTLOOK – This team will reload for another big run. Nevermind the overall won-loss record, at the end of the day (or season) the Bobcats will be a threat for their fifth regional title in a row. I doubt Elverado will be able to sneak up on Meridian this season. Less than 24-hours after losing to the Falcons last February, Meridian turned around and beat 3A South Seven Conference member Marion. A valuable lesson was learned on that Friday night on the road that the good teams will show up every night. Look for the Bobcats to show up all year, especially in the postseason. ABV believes they will still be playing in March.

N20-25 Pyramid Plus Tournament @ Marion J15-20 Benton Invitational Tournament


@ Marion Agape Christian J26 @ Joppa
D5 Ullin Century J27 Pinckneyville Showcase
D8 Cobden J30 Jackson (MO.) Saxony Lutheran
D9 Harrisburg F2 Elkville Elverado
D12 @ Dongola F3 Charleston (MO.) Shootout
D16 Granite City Gateway Academy F9 @ Wolf Lake Shawnee
D27-29 Carbondale Holiday Tournament F10 @ Marion
J6 @ Graves County (KY.) F16 @ Tamms Egyptian
J13 MLK Shootout F19-23 IHSA Regional TBD