ALLEN – Melissa’s Lady Cardinals (2-2) had a tough assignment on Thursday, Nov. 17, at Allen’s Lady Eagle Hoopfest tournament: Duking it out with Class 6A Plano East and Irving MacArthur — just hours apart. Though the Lady Cards didn’t post a win on this opening day of Hoopfest, they scrapped and battled against the big-league competition — and very nearly beat MacArthur.


Plano East (6-1) prevailed, 73-37, in the noon tip-off at Allen High School and MacArthur (3-1) squeaked by, 50-45, later at Ereckson Middle School.


Junior Taylor Carney’s 16 points led Melissa against Plano East, as Lady Cards seniors Lauren Brown and Esthy Uyi-Ekhator chipped-in five points each. Against MacArthur, Carney had a team-high 14 points, with junior Natalie Conlin and Brown tallying 10 and 7 points, respectively.


Plano East jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but the Lady Cardinals fought back, keeping things nip-and-tuck till midway through the second quarter. Carney jumpers and steals by sophomore Skyla Mackey and Uyi-Ekhator helped Melissa stay in it over this stretch.


Three straight free throws finally gave Plano East some breathing room at 21-17 and soon two jumpers, a 3-pointer and a layup off a steal pushed the Lady Panthers’ margin to 30-17. Uyi-Ekhator’s baseline jumper and two free throws from Charley Lane drew the Lady Cards to within 31-21 as the half neared its end, but another Plano East steal pushed the lead to 33-21 at the break.


The Lady Panthers opened the second half with a 3 and kept up the pressure the rest of the way, building their advantage to 52-29 after three quarters. In the fourth, Melissa’s Brown sank a nice corner-jumper and sophomore Sally Clemmons swished a 15-foot “j” for the Lady Cards.


Against MacArthur (3-1), a team boasting one of the top guards in the country in Sarah Andrews, Melissa led at halftime, 27-24, on the strength of three straight free throws by Carney. The Lady Cards had bounced back from a 20-15 second-quarter deficit with solid defense, a breakaway lay-up by Addison Flowers and another corner-bomb from Brown.


The game continued back-and-forth, with three ties in the third quarter. A turnaround jumper by Lane opened the fourth stanza and pulled the Lady Cards to within 38-36. Conlin free throws and a Uyi-Ekhator lay-up then kept Melissa within two points as the clock ticked below five minutes left to play.


Leading by four, 47-43, with just over two minutes left, MacArthur went into a stall, spreading out and passing to burn clock. Eventually, the strategy resulted in a wide-open MacArthur forward under the basket for an easy 2. A free throw pushed the margin to 50-43 and the game ended as Conlin drove to the bucket and scored for a final mark of 50-45.