MELISSA — With starting point guard Taylor Thomas out with the flu on Tuesday, Jan. 23, the Melissa Lady Cardinals rolled past Bonham, 65-31, at Melissa High’s Bird Cage. This was a battle between the winless and the unbeaten of District 11-4A and the Lady Cards — as the latter — had little trouble overcoming the former. Melissa cruised to a 39-20 halftime lead and held a 51-27 advantage after three quarters.


“I thought that [guards] Sally [Clemmons] and Natalie [Conlin] did a really good job of running our offenses,” Lady Cards head coach Heather Lane said. “And we were able to work on a couple of our defenses again, trying to prepare for the rest of district play.”


Melissa forward Taylor Carney erupted for a game-high 20 points, while forward Ashley Gideon and Clemmons were next among Lady Card double-digit shooters with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Carney’s eight rebounds also led the team and Gideon pulled down seven.


Bonham suffered 28 turnovers to the Lady Cards’ 11. Out of Melissa’s 20 steals, Clemmons pilfered five, and Lane and Carney each grabbed four. Clemmons also posted a game-high seven assists.


Averi Reeves led the Lady Warriors with 12 points.


Coach Lane noted that the Lady Cards’ shooting percentage this night — 45-percent overall and 18-percent from downtown (2-of-11) — was “not where I thought it could be” but added, “It’s hard if you did beat someone last time to be as intense as you should be.”


Several Lady Cards got good minutes off the bench in this one, including Allie Graham, Mya Ellis, Alisha Nicholas and Kayla Riles — at times subbing-in all at once as a unit. Lane singled out Graham’s play of late. “Allie has been doing a good job of coming in and giving us some really good guard play,” she said. “She’s unselfish and has a really nice outside shot. And she played really well at the end of our first half on Friday when we played Anna.”


Though Melissa had beaten Bonham by 50 on Jan. 5, Lane said she and her team respects and prepares for all opponents. “Everyone we play is always good enough to make it difficult, and of course we were without Taylor Thomas tonight.”


The Lady Warriors indeed hung tough for one quarter — leading 13-9 at one point after back-to-back 3s from Reeves — and trailed only 21-15 when it ended. When the Lady Cards were down by four, Gideon led the charge back with a put-back layup and a steal kicked to Clemmons for two more. Jumpers from Graham and Lane continued Melissa’s 10-0 run and Carney’s steal and two free throws capped it for a 19-13 Lady Cards lead.


Graham opened the second frame with a layup off a bounce-pass assist from Lane. Clemmons’ steal and layup then sent the advantage to ten for the first time, 25-15. Over the next five minutes, the Lady Cards’ lead swelled to 21 on consecutive drives to the hoop by Carney, steals by Lane and Clemmons, and four free throws. After Bonham cut their deficit to 37-20, a Carney steal eventually led to her put-back 2 to close out the first half.


Two minutes into the third period, Conlin’s big drive to the bucket sent the lead to 43-20. Steals by Lane and Clemmons and close-in points from Graham and Carney highlighted this 12-7 quarter for Melissa. Bonham recovered for four points as the frame ended.


Carney’s smooth jumper from the right and another Clemmons layup had Melissa up, 55-27, as the final stanza got under way. With less than six minutes left, Clemmons again drove the paint for 2 and was fouled. The ensuing swish pushed the lead to 31. When Carney’s back-to-back layups dug Bonham’s hole to 35 points, 62-27, the Lady Warriors went to timeout.


With under a minute to go and the score at 65-30, Lane had an open path to the bucket and mercy-dribbled back out toward midcourt.


District win six was in the books for Melissa with four to go. “I’m just thankful that we won,” Coach Lane said. “I’ll be glad to get Taylor Thomas back on Friday and hopefully we keep our other kids healthy.”


Melissa scorers: Taylor Carney 20, Ashley Gideon 14, Sally Clemmons 13, Natalie Conlin 8, Charley Lane 4, Allie Graham 3, Alisha Nicholas 2, Mya Ellis 1.