In a game that quickly whiplashed from tight as can be to blowout city, Melissa’s Lady Cardinals rose up and swatted Gainesville in the second quarter on Friday then cruised to a 77-51 win in the district opener for both teams. The contest had been knotted at 18 before Melissa erupted for a 29-9 second stanza - like a spring storm out of nowhere. And like that storm, it was a change in pressure that helped wreak the havoc. The Lady Cards turned it up in that second frame, resulting in at least six steals and other woes for Gainesville.
“I like my players to get a feel for the game first before we really come after somebody,” Melissa head coach Chris Oestreich said. “Our girls didn’t do a very good job in the first quarter of containing the ball, boxing out, talking, doing the little things we need to do. At that point you’ve got to go after them and see if you can’t spark something. And that’s what we did.”
Four Lady Cards rolled to double-digit scoring this night, including guard Mia Ellis and forward Ashley Gideon with 19 points each; guard Sally Clemmons with 15; and guard Allie Graham with 10. Not only that, but every player on Melissa’s roster scored.
Not a bad way to start district play.
“I thought we played well,” Oestreich said. “We probably played closer to our potential in this game than we have in a while. I was pleased with that. The Nocona game [on Dec. 21], I told them, was a predictor of how good we can be. But the consistency is what you’re looking for. To be able to [win] there, have Christmas break and come back and take care of business here at home – that’s important.
“And anytime you can get four people in double figures and you get everybody scoring, that’s good. A lot of that was when we were up over 20 points but still, we executed a game plan and took the ball out the hands of people we needed to when the game was close.”
Guard Pshylah Kemp set the pace for Gainesville with 25 points. “We didn’t do such a good job on 32 [Kemp] and 25 [Myricle Davis] - not the way I would want to,” Oestreich said. “But when we needed to, we were able to take the ball out of their hands. That was the game plan.”
The Lady Leopards held an early 5-3 lead before Clemmons’ right-side 3 and a Gideon layup had Melissa up, 8-5. Grace Moothhart’s 3-pointer from the left corner preceded another Gideon layup - this one off an inbounds pass - and Lady Cards’ margin was 13-8. After a Graham steal, Charley Lane’s assist to Gideon for two more boosted the lead to seven and, with 3:30 left in the first, Melissa looked in control. But Gainesville answered with two quick buckets as two Melissa shots rolled in and out. Down 1, the Lady Leopards grabbed the lead on a Karina Ortiz driving layup. Two free throws by Graham restored the Lady Cards’ advantage at 17-16 but Gainesville took it back once more. Then with 10 seconds remaining in the frame, Mia Ellis nabbed a steal and was fouled. Her free-throw shot swished the net, knotting the score at 18.
Melissa pushed to a 23-18 lead to open the second quarter on Graham’s left-side 3 and a Mia Ellis layup, but things remained tight till midway through the period. The Lady Leopards trailed by three, 29-26, when the “Red-Red” storm struck. Three-straight Melissa steals – by Mya Ellis, Clemmons and Graham – were capped by Mia Ellis’ big trey from the right corner and the Lady Cards led 34-26. Two Gideon free throws then sent Gainesville’s deficit to 10 as the pace picked up. A steal and spin-move layup from Clemmons and Graham’s next 3 made it 41-26. In the half’s final minute, Mia Ellis posted two more steals and sank two free throws for a 45-27 lead. Clemmons’ driving layup from the left side then closed out the turbulent frame as Gainesville fans likely wondered what just happened.
Two more Melissa steals welcomed the Lady Leopards back to the court in the third - one by Gideon for a coast-to-coast layup, the other by Lane that drew a foul. Halfway through the stanza, Gideon’s layup-and-1 had the Lady Cards up 54-33 and Mia Ellis repeated the exercise moments later. A Jaydyn Bullard layup would send Gainesville to timeout, down 54-35. The Lady Leopards hit two buckets out of that break but Mia Ellis had a reply: 3 from downtown off a Graham feed and Melissa led, 62-41.
In the fourth, the Lady Cards kept rolling as everyone saw playing time. After another Bullard basket, Melissa forward Melayah Muhammad’s layup juiced the margin to 66-43. Clemmons then flipped a shot off the glass from the right side, followed by a Mia Ellis layup and Graham’s jumper for 2. Mia Ellis drained one more 3 to go up 75-48 before Melissa forward Bionca Mays’ jumper from the right side ended the evening’s scoring.
Gainesville 18 9 15 9 - 51
Melissa 18 29 15 15 - 77
Melissa scoring - Mia Ellis 19, Ashley Gideon 19, Sally Clemmons 15, Allie Graham 10, Jaydyn Bullard 4, Grace Moothart 3, Mya Ellis 2, Melayah Muhammad 2, Bionca Mays 2, Charley Lane 1.