WYLIE — For nearly three quarters on Monday, Feb. 12, Melissa’s Lady Cardinals had a fight on their hands versus Terrell in the Class 4A Region II bi-district playoffs. But as the fourth quarter began at Wylie East High School, Melissa pulled away for a gritty 60-48 victory.
The Lady Cards appeared to wear down the upset-minded Lady Tigers, forging a 1-point lead after a quarter and steadily increasing advantage with each passing stanza — five points by halftime, seven after three quarters and 12 by game’s end.
With the win, Melissa advances to face either Wilmer-Hutchins or Krum in the area round.
Early on, this contest felt much different than last year’s bi-district meeting with Terrell – an 85-38 shellacking by the Lady Cards. “They’re very athletic, very quick,” Melissa head coach Heather Lane said of this opponent afterward. “[Terrell] Coach [Darrell] Mickens has done a great job. They’ve improved every time we’ve played them. That was good for us because we’re going to play those types of athletes again as we move through the playoffs. I’m just very thankful that the kids held on. We had a good third and fourth quarter, especially the beginning of the fourth. … I’m proud of our defense for creating some offense for us.”
Guard Taylor Thomas poured in a team-high 18 points for Melissa and also led in assists, with four. Thomas, a four-year varsity veteran, also went over 1,000 points for her career this night and the prestigious benchmark was noted by the team with a special presentation after the game.
Other Lady Card double-digit scorers included forward Ashley Gideon with 17 points and guard Sally Clemmons with 10. Forward Taylor Carney posted four blocks and three steals — both team-highs — and she chipped in seven points. Guard Natalie Conlin, another four-year varsity player, led Melissa with 10 rebounds — eight of them at the defensive end.
“It started out a little rough but we pulled it together,” Conlin said. “We worked together really well. We worked as a team to pull it off.” Thomas said the contest had been fairly physical. “We didn’t think it would be this close but we stayed together as a team and we came through.”
Zaquria Brown led Terrell scorers with 19 points and teammate Li’Neshya Brumley added 14.
All told, Melissa (31-3) won the battle of the boards, 36-17, and outshot the Lady Tigers from the charity stripe, 67- to 41-percent. Terrell (17-16) sank only 9-of-22 free throws to the Lady Cards’ 16-of-24. The Lady Tigers managed five 3s to Melissa’s two.
Terrell jumped out to an early 8-2 lead as the Lady Cards’ shots wouldn’t fall — but the advantage wouldn’t hold. A Carney jumper from the left side off Charley Lane’s long feed capped a 6-0 Melissa run to tie. After the score was knotted twice more, Carney’s three from the right pushed the Lady Cards’ margin to six for the first time, at 16-10. The Lady Tigers answered with a layup then a trey to trail 16-15 as the first-quarter expired.
Thomas opened the second period with a 3 from the top of the key and Gideon followed with a layup to move the margin back to half-a-dozen. As before, Terrell pushed back — this time moving ahead, 23-22, after a pair of 3-pointers. Five lead changes ensued on the way to a 28-27 Lady Cards advantage with three minutes to go in the half. Melissa would not trail again.
A pair of free throws by Conlin and Gideon bought the Lady Cards some elbow room and Thomas’ layup off a Clemmons assist pushed their lead to 32-27 at the break.
The third quarter saw Melissa get up by seven for the first time, 37-30, on a Gideon layup off Thomas’ assist. After the Lady Tigers clawed to within 37-34, Thomas stopped-and-popped for 2 in the paint with a feed from Carney. A big 3 by Brown from the right corner kept Terrell close, 42-39, as the third-stanza clock showed less than 60 seconds left.
That’s when Melissa found another gear. Thomas’ tough drive to the hoop for 2 started Lady Cards’ decisive push. That was followed by Gideon’s put-back bucket to boost the lead to 46-39 as the fourth quarter began. Gideon started the final frame with another layup, with Conlin’s assist, and Conlin quickly followed with a steal and a pass to Clemmons who bulled through a couple of tall trees for two more.
Up now, 50-39, with 6:30 remaining, Thomas found Clemmons with a no-look pass for two points and Terrell called timeout. Out of that break, Clemmons laid in another basket for a 15-point lead. All in all, this was a 12-0 Lady Cards run — and it ended Terrell’s hopes of moving on. The Lady Tigers would get no closer than nine points the rest of the way.
After the game, Thomas was moved to tears as Coach Lane and the team presented her with a commemorative basketball inked with details of her 1000-point milestone. “It’s really great to play with a team like this,” Thomas said. “And I’m really proud that I’ve done something like this.” She said she thought she might be getting close to the benchmark but didn’t know how close.
“That’s pretty cool,” Lane said. “Her dad and I talked about it about a month ago because we knew she was getting close. I’ve had my eye on it. I told [Assistant] Coach [JD] Clemmons before the game, ‘Let me know.’ She needed 16 points and she got 18. She has 1,002.”
And there’s more Lady Cards basketball left to play.
Melissa scorers: Taylor Thomas 18, Ashley Gideon 17, Sally Clemmons 10, Taylor Carney 7, Natalie Conlin 6, Charley Lane 2.