By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
Paul Meiere Jr. had nothing to say to his team.
Though he is one of the most successful head coaches in Georgia, has sculpted Paideia into one of the state’s top programs, and has led the Pythons to the state playoffs in 17 of his 19 years at the school, including three trips to the semifinals and two state-runner up finishes, Meiere had no words for his team’s first half performance against Mt. Pisgah.
“There was nothing I could say to help them,” Meiere said of the Python’s dismal performance, which caused them to trail the Patriots 11-10 after two quarters. “At some point they have to remember what you’ve told them and go out and execute it. It’s that simple. We were just awful in the first half.”
His players got the message, especially sophomore Ellery Koelker-Wolfe. The 5-foot-10 guard scored 10 of her 14 points in the second half, including eight in a decisive third quarter, to help Paideia (9-3) pull away from pesky Mt. Pisgah (1-4), 35-22, at the Snake Pit.
Koelker-Wolfe got things cooking right from the start of the second half when she drilled a three-pointer from the corner on the Pythons’ opening possession. Paideia followed that up with two more buckets – a rebound and put back by senior point guard Megan Herrmann and a layup by senior forward Lucy Coxe – before a free throw by Mt. Pisgah guard Bria Johnson, a sophomore, made the score 17-12.
But Koelker-Wolfe knocked down another three and came right back with a left-handed layup along the baseline to put the Pythons up by 10, 22-12, midway through the period. Two free throws by junior guard Nia Smith, who led all scorers with 15 points, gave Paideia its largest lead of the night, 24-12.
Mt. Pisgah rallied with a 6-0 run — an offensive rebound and put back by 6-foot-5 center Emily Raymer, a three by Rachel Plate and a free throw by Johnson, who led the Patriots with 10 points – to cut the lead to 24-18 just before the end of the third quarter.
But Paideia put the game away in the final period by holding Mt. Pisgah to just four points, while scoring 11. The Pythons also limited the Patriots to just six possessions by holding the ball and passing it around until a nearly uncontested shot developed. On one possession, Paideia controlled the ball for nearly two minutes before Koelker-Wolfe banked in another bucket to push the Python lead back to 12 at 32-20 with a little over two minutes left in regulation.
The win sets up an important week for Paideia, which is undefeated (2-0) in Region 5A. The Pythons will host the two teams that are also undefeated in league play – Greenforest Christian and Holy Innocents, next Friday and Saturday. Prior to that, Paideia will host Lakeview Academy (5-6) Saturday in a non-region game, and region foe Galloway (4-4) on Tuesday.
Meiere said he isn’t worried about his team looking ahead to next weekend.
“We have a very young team and we’re not very deep,” Meiere said. “The way we have played at times, we are not going to overlook anyone.”
Paideia (35) – Nia Smith 15, Ellery Koelker-Wolfe 14, Megan Herrmann 4, Lucy Coxe 2.
Mt. Pisgah (22) – Bria Johnson 10, Emily Raymer 7, Rachel Plate 3, Taylor Latham 2.