FRISCO — Sanger’s Lady Indians rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat Melissa, 58-53, on Tuesday, Feb. 20, in a Class 4A Region II quarterfinal battle at Frisco Wakeland High School. And it was certainly a battle.


The scrappy Lady Cards had a bigger and quite physical Sanger squad on the ropes for three quarters before finally succumbing late. Melissa (32-4) blitzed to a 9-0 lead to start the game and still led by five as the fourth stanza began — but in that final frame Sanger pressed its advantage, holding the Lady Cards scoreless for the first four minutes and taking its first lead of the game. Still, Melissa was in it to the finish, trailing 54-53 with 12 seconds left.


Sanger (30-7) moves on to face Tatum (30-4) in the Region II semifinals on Friday, Feb. 23, at Texas A&M-Commerce. For the two-time undefeated district-champion Lady Cards, another stellar campaign comes to a close.


“I’m just really proud of our seniors,” Melissa head coach Heather Lane said. “They had a great season. They did a lot of cool things this year. It’s just unfortunate that the game turned like it did. … But I’m proud of our kids for battling, fighting. Even to the very end we had opportunities and we just didn’t convert. There were lots of mistakes that happened throughout the game and when it’s a close game like that it all adds up. But it’s magnified at the end.”


Double-digit scorers for Melissa included senior forward Taylor Carney with 12 points, junior forward Charley Lane with 11 points and senior guard Taylor Thomas with 10 points. Thomas’ six rebounds led the Lady Cards while senior guard Natalie Conlin grabbed five. Junior guard Sally Clemmons posted a team-high four assists.


For Sanger, freshman guard Chloe Malone led with 17 points while Brooke Rollins and Maci Turkoly added 15 and 13 points, respectively.


“We’ve been in that situation a lot,” Sanger head coach Tracy Sykes said of the pressure-packed contest. “I think our district really prepares us for games like this. Every district game that we had this year was tight, except for one. I mean tight — to the buzzer. I was extremely proud of what we did. … We knew they were probably going to press us. They did a great job running a 2-3 zone, getting traps out of that. We knew they were going to be aggressive, we knew they could hit the 3 — and they did all that stuff. That’s why they got the lead. We struggled on defense at first and we made adjustments at the half.”


Down the final 40-second stretch with the Lady Indians up three, there was a bit of controversy as officials missed awarding Rollins a second free throw after Melissa’s 10th foul of the half. In attempting to correct the error, a lengthy conference ensued involving whether to put time back on the clock since play had resumed since the mistake. Ultimately, time was not restored — but it mattered little: Rollins missed the second free throw and in the time remaining the Lady Cards had open chances to win or tie.


Melissa’s 9-0 first-quarter surge was led by Thomas’ seven points, including a three-pointer that sent the Lady Indians to a timeout. Carney also had a bucket and two steals at the outset. The Lady Cards went up 13-3 midway through the frame on back-to-back Clemmons layups but Sanger slapped back, 10-2. Clemmons’ put-back bucket off a Carney 3-try ended that run, putting Melissa ahead, 17-13, as the period wound down. After a two-point Lady Indians answer, Lane’s layup off an Ashley Gideon assist gave the Lady Cards a 19-15 edge as the buzzer sounded.


In the second, Sanger would gain two ties but never go ahead. Melissa began the quarter with consecutive treys from Lane and Carney to lead, 25-17. Thomas added a free throw before the Lady Indians again charged back, this time getting to within 26-24 with 2:40 left before the break. Carney’s jumper and clutch free throws — four from Lane, two from Gideon, in the half’s final two minutes — allowed Melissa a 32-30 halftime advantage.


The Lady Indians offered up a turnover to begin the third quarter and Conlin’s 3 made them pay. A double-clutch jumper from Thomas in the lane and a Carney trey soon had Melissa up, 44-36, with 4:30 to go in the stanza. But a 7-0 Sanger rally followed and the writing was on the gym wall: This fight would go to the finish. Gideon’s layup off a Clemmons assist and two Gideon free throws put the Lady Cards ahead, 48-43, as the quarter expired.


Sanger took its first lead of the game, 49-48, as the fourth frame unfolded and went on to a 52-48 advantage — a 9-0 push — before the Lady Cards replied with a Clemmons free throw and Lane’s layup. Rollins hit two from the charity stripe for a 54-51 Lady Indian lead then struck for a crucial steal with 50 seconds left. The free throw-miscue debate followed leaving the score unchanged.


From there, a Thomas layup and Lane’s three wouldn’t go but Clemmons drained two from the charity stripe to draw Melissa to within 54-53 with 12 seconds left. After a Sanger free throw, the Lady Cards moved down for what would be their final possession of the season. As the clock ticked under 10 seconds, Clemmons drove baseline from the left and put up a layup. The ball perched on the rim for a moment — then rolled back off. Turkoly nabbed the rebound for the Lady Indians and was fouled with 1.2 seconds showing. She sank three free throws to close it out, the last two shots for a technical foul on a Melissa player for an unknown infraction.


Melissa scorers: Taylor Carney 12, Charley Lane 11, Taylor Thomas 10, Sally Clemmons 9, Ashley Gideon 8, Natalie Conlin 3.