DEWITT – For a moment, a pair of Central DeWitt girls basketball freshmen were the town's best kept secret.
The duo ambushed opponents to open their varsity career, taking an undefeated record until the final game before winter break – a stretch of nine games.
But as the second half of the schedule looms, the cat – or, in this case, a purple and yellow striped Saber – is out of the bag.
"I think everybody now is gunning for us knowing about these two," Central DeWitt head coach Chad Specht said following the team's 49-42 win over Camanche on Dec. 20, which tied the program's best start since the 2010-11 season at 9-0.
Taylor Veach and Allison Meadows have united at the forefront of a full-fledged program turnaround as the one-two scoring punch for the Sabers, who finished 7-14 last season.
The pair's profound connection derives from sifting through the sport's fundamentals as 6-year-old kids and during countless summers traveling the stateline (and beyond) as members of the same AAU team. Just 40 miles north, their mothers starred for Bellevue in the 90's.
But Veach and Meadows' relationship revolves around more than just basketball, as a trip to social media proves. From shared vacations to homecoming dances, it is clear the pair are more than just teammates.
And it shows on the court. The duo moves in uncanny rhythm on the hardwood, as it seems like one always knows where the other will be located. Veach averages 16.6 points per game to rank among the WaMaC's top-three while Meadows' 10.5 points join Veach as the only other first-year player in the league's top dozen scorers.
"We have been playing together for a really long time and we just have chemistry when we step on the floor," Meadows said.
Meadows, 5-8, serves as the team's primary ball handler, where her calculated passes combine with timely scoring chances. She seldom forces the action, and her overall on-court maturity leaves opposing spectators double-checking the grade designation in the game programs.
And while Meadows' fundamentals are sturdy, she also can provide a flair, as she did with a clever Euro step to avoid a pair of Camanche defenders for a layup plus a foul. That is not in Basketball for Dummies.
Veach pointed to her AAU experience as a valuable precursor for varsity competition, where she lines up opposite of athletes two and three years her senior every night in a loaded WaMaC league that boasts last year's state champion, Marion, and qualifiers South Tama and Center Point Urbana.
The most impressive part of Veach's game is not one specific attribute, such as her ability to finish in traffic or shoot from long-range; rather, it is her versatility that tends to force opponents into frustration.
A crafty left-hander, Veach can score in many ways. She can slice to the basket off the dribble or rely on her potent 3-point shot, which she is shooting at an impressive 43 percent clip this season. Veach often joins Meadows in running the offense, a role she carries with poise uncommon of a freshman.
On defense, she is able to guard the opposing team's tallest player in the post or the lights-out shooter on the perimeter – an oft-forgotten aspect that has certainly not been lost on her coach, who lauds the duo's efforts.
"I don't think everybody truly understands what they do defensively," Specht said. "They are the best two defenders, they just get after girls, causing havoc."
"To me, defense is most important. In order to get offensive flow, you need good defensive flow," Veach added. "[Offensively] I do a lot of hours in the gym and I think ball movement helps get each other open."
Entering the season, Specht seemed to have a hunch Veach and Meadows would find success. Perhaps the more pressing question was integrating two freshmen into a rotation of proven veterans like Lauren Wisco (6.8 points) and Emily Swanson, who averages 5.5 points and has five blocks this season.
"I have said it all along, it is about getting good balance and melding everyone together and we have done a great job this year," Specht said.
Veach said the transition process was seamless.
"Our seniors and juniors accepted us right away," Veach said. "They made us feel like part of the team right away."
Meadows flashed a smile at the thought of her teammates.
"The start to the season has been so fun. We just all work together so nicely."