GARLAND — There are wins — and there are blowouts. This was the latter.
The district-champion Melissa Lady Cardinals (20-12) unceremoniously dumped Terrell’s Lady Tigers, 85-37, on Monday, Feb. 13, in a first-round playoff match at Garland’s Naaman Forest High School. It was classic Lady Cards ball — again: unrelenting defensive pressure, loads of steals and plenty of deft ball-handling. And, of course, there were the soul-killing long-range 3s, of which Melissa drained six.
And with the game well in hand after three quarters, 56-29, the Lady Cards didn’t sit back in the fourth. They romped on to a 29-8 finish. After all, this was the playoffs.
“We created a lot of opportunities to go score in fast-break situations in the first quarter,” Melissa head coach Heather Lane said. “Lauren Brown had an amazing first quarter. And we had some role-players come off the bench and do an amazing job: Skyla Mackey, Sally (Clemmons), as always. But Skyla hit some big buckets when she came in the game, so it gave her confidence. And Charley (Lane) got some really big rebounds. So it was just good for all of our kids to be able to contribute.”
Melissa’s junior Taylor Thomas, the game’s top scorer, collected 21 points, including a game-high three 3s. Other Lady Cards reaching double-digits included senior Lauren Brown, with 16, and sophomore Sally Clemmons with 13. Thomas also grabbed nine rebounds and dished four assists, both team-highs, and also picked up three steals. Brown pulled down five rebounds and tallied an assist and a steal, and senior teammate Krista Butterfield added four rebounds, with three boards and three assists.
Jerrona Barfield’s 16 points led the way for the Lady Tigers and Diamond Autry was next with 7.
“They’re quick and athletic, we knew that,” Lane said of scouting Terrell. “We knew rebounding might be an issue, you know, the put-back stuff that they were able to get. But we knew that they lacked a little bit of skill, as far as passing and shooting, so we tried to just disrupt their offense with our defenses and our deflections. We also tried to execute on offense and then, just run. Just run the court. Beat them up and down the floor, try to create easy opportunities for our kids to score inside.”
“Overall,” Thomas said, “I think we did really good on keeping our tempo. And I think if we play like that next game, we’ll win too.”
“It was so exciting to win our first playoff game,” Butterfield said, adding that the game plan was, “To just play how we play and not worry about what they’re going to do. We were just going to go play and make sure that we attend to our business.”
“Our team worked really hard and worked together,” Brown said. “It was team effort. It came together and we just pulled it off. … Coach Lane has trained us hard — taught us to stay in the game, play the whole time. And as a team, we kept each other accountable.”
Melissa opened the game with a 9-0 run before the Lady Tigers closed out the first quarter with a 6-4 push of their own. But 13-6 was as close as Terrell would get as the Lady Cards pulled away in the second frame, outscoring their opponent, 25-11. Along the way, Clemmons and Thomas teamed up on back-to-back assist/layup combinations – Thomas to Clemmons first, then Clemmons to Thomas.
Five minutes before halftime, Mackey’s 3 from just left of top-of-the-key pushed Melissa’s lead to 17 points for the first time. Soon after, two free throws and a jumper from Thomas boosted the margin to 20, at 32-12. Layups by Brown and Natalie Conlin concluded the half with Melissa up, 38-17.
In the final quarter, as Melissa’s lead grew to 38 points, Terrell’s frustration showed as one of their players drew a technical foul for something said to a referee. Junior Taylor Carney swished home both free throws to push the Lady Cards’ margin to 71-31. Over the final four minutes, Butterfield, Mackey, Conlin and Ashley Gibeon combined to sink 10 free throws, completing the decisive victory.
The Cards faced Carrollton Ranchview in the area round on Friday, Feb. 17, at Frisco Independence High School.