ANNA — Melissa’s Lady Cardinals completed their second-straight undefeated run through District 11-4A on Wednesday, Feb. 7, with a 47-21 victory at Anna. The Lady Cards led, 26-9, at halftime and cruised home after the break. That’s 20 consecutive district wins for Melissa over the last two seasons — and two district titles.
“I’m proud for our seniors,” Lady Cards head coach Heather Lane said. “Back-to-back district champions.”
Guard Taylor Thomas and forward Ashley Gideon each pumped in 12 points to lead Melissa. Thomas also posted seven steals and six assists, both team-highs. Forward Taylor Carney added 10 points to round out the Lady Cards’ list of double-digit scorers. Guard Natalie Conlin nabbed a team-high seven rebounds for Melissa and Gideon collected three blocks, tops as well.
Senior forward JaShell Evans’ eight points led the Lady Coyotes.
Melissa (29-3) will face Terrell (17-15) in the bi-district playoffs on Monday, Feb. 12, at Wylie East High School. The Lady Coyotes (7-19, 3-7) finish the district race tied with Celina for fourth place and will face that team on Friday at Princeton in a playoffs “play-in” game.
Of course, the odd thing about this Anna-Melissa contest was that it took 24 hours to complete. This was due to Tuesday’s storm-induced, early second-quarter power outage that left AHS’s venerable gym bathed in darkness — save for cellphone “fire-flies” and dim emergency lighting.
Several minutes of fun ensued after things went black: one kid yelled, “Shoot it!”; Anna cheerleaders cheered on for some time; and giant hand-shadow creatures began to appear on the gym’s east wall. Coaches and officials soon got word the lights would not return this night and deemed to finish the game Wednesday.
Though this contest’s delayed finish had the potential to disrupt both teams’ post-season preparations, Lane said the Lady Cards handled it well. “It’s always more fun to play in a game than to practice, so that was motivation for the girls. We were able to work on some of our defenses and our offenses against the zone. [The Lady Coyotes] were pretty consistent in what they were doing so we were able to make adjustments — which is important because you’re going to have to make adjustments later on.”
“We used [the game] as practice time,” Cager said. “I hate the fact that we couldn’t focus on the things that Celina is going to do. But it’s not like things are going to change. We’re going to run what we’re going to run. They’re going to run what they’re going to run.”
Notably, when the contest started on Tuesday the Lady Coyotes were without three key players due to the flu — Skyla Mackey, Chastity Brown-Littleton and Taylor Medrick. By Wednesday, another had taken ill — Shelby Dombrowski.
And Melissa went without injured spark-plug guard Sally Clemmons both days.
“I just told them, ‘It doesn’t matter who’s here, it doesn’t matter who’s not here,” Cager said. “We’re going to put a team on the court and we’re going to compete.’ I feel like we got better in the second half. I got a chance to get some young girls a lot of playing time that they normally didn’t get.”
Before this Senior Night game for Anna began on Tuesday, Melissa seniors Carney, Conlin, Thomas and Kayla Riles were honored as well with bouquets of flowers. The Lady Cards had done the same for Anna last year at Melissa. “Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” Lane said of the two programs’ gestures. “You can be rivals but still have appreciation for your competition. We’re trying to teach [players] to be good people too.”
Lady Coyote seniors Taylor Medrick, Madison Davis, Hannah Heath, Taija Pritchett and Evans were honored after the game on Wednesday. (Brown-Littleton was unable to attend due to illness.)
The contest’s opening tip on Tuesday featured a heart-warming surprise. The Lady Cards stood down, allowing Anna to get the ball to Heath for an uncontested layup. Heath, a standout Lady Coyotes guard as a sophomore, lost her junior and senior seasons to successive knee injuries. But she was well enough to suit up for this final home game of her career — and one memorable play.
“I was glad Hannah Heath got to enjoy that moment,” Lane said. “Some of our kids used to play on a summer team with her. It’s just hard to see athletes have goals, have dreams … and then have that ripped away from them with injuries. I’m really thankful it was us who was able to give that up for her because she’s a special kid. We just wanted her to have that moment of appreciation to go out on as a senior.”
As for Anna’s coming play-in game with Celina, “We’re pretty evenly matched,” Cager said. “You look at our scores — they beat us by 12 the first time, we beat them by 14 the second time. Shots fall, you get some bounces. I think either team can win this game.”
Anna scorers: JaShell Evans 8, FeKyra Wells 3, Kaycee Redwine 3, Shelby Dombrowski 2, Hannah Heath 2, , Shataelyn King 1, Lexi Stewart 1, Madison Davis 1.
Melissa scorers: Taylor Thomas 12, Ashley Gideon 12, Taylor Carney 10, Natalie Conlin 6, Allie Graham 3, Alisha Nicholas 2, Charley Lane 2.