MELISSA — The Melissa Lady Cardinals rolled to their fifth-straight district win of 2018 on Friday, Jan. 19, with a 55-29 defeat of Anna at Melissa High’s Bird Cage. At the midpoint of the district race, the Lady Cards’ league record remains unblemished and their Class 4A Top 4 state — ranking unchanged.


On a night when neither team shot the ball particularly well, Melissa’s harassing multiple defenses and plentiful steals wound up being decisive factors.


Guard Sally Clemmons tallied a game-high 16 points for the Lady Cards while forward Taylor Carney and guard Taylor Thomas posted 10 each. Clemmons also finished with seven steals and five assists, both tops for Melissa, and guard Natalie was right behind her in each category with six steals and four assists. Lady Cards forward Charley Lane grabbed a team-high nine rebounds while Thomas and Conlin picked seven each.


“[Anna] Coach [Albert] Cager is doing a really good job with them,” Melissa head coach Heather Lane said. “We knew, watching their scores, that they had improved. Even with the absence of [injured] Hannah Heath, the other girls are developing and they’re doing a good job. He knows what he’s doing and they’re really listening to him. I’m just proud of our kids for battling through a low shooting percentage. We got lots of open shots but we missed a lot of shots that we normally don’t miss.”


“We felt really good coming into the game,” Cager said. “We felt like we understood what they were going to do and what they’re best at. We understood what we had to do to be successful. I thought for a large portion of the game we were really successful with the things we were doing. The difference between us and them is the consistency. We play really, really well for two minutes and then we drop off for a minute or two. Good teams, they make you pay for it. But I felt like we competed really hard. … We missed a lot of wide-open 3-pointers. Those will eventually fall. And we missed a lot of layups.”


Melissa connected on four of 17 shots from 3-point range, with an overall field-goal percentage of 36 percent. The Lady Coyotes (1-4) finished at 28 percent, with two of 15 trey tries finding net. Anna was held to single-digit scoring in all four quarters. The teams battled nearly even on the boards with the Lady Cards holding a 31-29 edge. Forward JaShell Evans collected a team-high six points for Anna.


In the first quarter, guard Skyla Mackey’s steal and layup under Anna’s basket gave the Lady Coyotes a 4-2 lead, and her assist to Evans tied the game at 6-6. But after that, Melissa went ahead for good, mostly with dead-eye free throws, and owned a 12-6 advantage as the stanza ended.


The Lady Cards got rolling in the second with a Carney jumper from the left and Thomas’ left-side 3 to go up 21-10. After an Anna timeout, the Lady Coyotes hit back with back-to-back layups from forward Lexi Stewart off Mackey and Taylor Medrick assists. Leading 21-15, Melissa responded with an 8-0 run to close out the half - a burst featuring two Clemmons’ moves to the hoop for 2 and another by forward Ashley Gideon, with a lane-jumper by forward Allie Graham also.


Down, 31-15, at the break, Anna’s hopes for a quick rally in the third quarter vanished when the Lady Cards went on an 11-0 push to open the period. A Melissa highlight here was Lane’s steal and give to Carney who fired it back to Lane in the left corner for 3. With 5:14 left in the period, Anna called timeout, trailing 40-15. Mackey soon drove the lane for 2 and guard Madison Davis hit a jumper with an assist from Kaycee Redwine and the Lady Coyotes’ hill was 42-19 high. Thomas and Anna guard Chastity Brown-Littleton traded treys to end the frame.


In the fourth, Lane snatched another steal and lobbed it high and deep to Clemmons who gathered it in for 2 and a 52-27 lead with three minutes left to play. Carney’s 3-pointer concluded Melissa’s scoring with 1:30 remaining. Lady Coyote guard Marianna Bert had a 3 in the quarter and teammate FeKyra Wells closed out the scoring with a layup in the final minute.


“I’m extremely proud of being 5-0 at the end of the first half [of district],” Lane said, “but we have to stay focused and stay hungry. … We want to make sure we’re getting better. We want to go to the boards and make sure we’re blocking out. We ran through almost all of our defenses tonight so it gave us an opportunity to get better at those.”


As for the Lady Coyotes’ near future, Cager said, “I feel really, really comfortable going into these last five games. In the first half of the district, we were in every game at halftime. It’s in the third quarter, when each team has turned it up on us, that we let it get away.” Cager added that he believes his team has a shot at topping Celina, Aubrey and Princeton in the coming days. “If we are able to execute what we’re supposed to do and handle the pressure, I feel like we really can win all three of those games.”


Anna scorers: JaShell Evans 6, FeKyra Wells 5, Skyla Mackey 4, Lexi Stewart 4, Marianna Bert 3, Chastity Brown-Littleton 3, Madison Davis 2, Hannah Howell 2.


Melissa scorers: Sally Clemmons 16, Taylor Carney 10, Taylor Thomas 10, Ashley Gideon 6, Charley Lane 5, Natalie Conlin 4, Allie Graham 4.