MELISSA – Melissa rallied from a 14-point first-quarter deficit on Friday to down visiting rival Celina, 58-47, in a crucial District 11-4A contest. The win at Melissa Middle School earned the Lady Cardinals (5-2) sole possession of second place — one game up on Sanger with three games left - and dropped the Lady Bobcats (3-4) into fourth.


Forward Ashley Gideon poured in a team-high 19 points for Melissa, including 12 in the second quarter when the Lady Cards stormed back to trail by one at halftime. By the end of three quarters, the Lady Cards had scratched ahead, 39-38, and then they pounded out a 19-9 fourth stanza for the victory.


Guard Sally Clemmons added 16 big points to Melissa’s cause and the Lady Cards shot well from the charity stripe. Mia Ellis hit 4-of-4 free throws while Gideon nailed 3-for-4, Allie Graham went 4-for-6 and Clemmons sank 6-of-9.


“I told the kids, ‘You’ve just got to believe, you’ve got to stay the course,’” Melissa head coach Chris Oestreich said. “You can’t panic early in the game. We just kept going at it and going at it. Credit the kids. You start with a little different lineup. Sally’s had an illness in the family so she hasn’t even practiced the last two days. We got her today at shoot-around. She did a tremendous job, coming in having not played. Her toughness really helps us. Then I thought [forward] Charley [Lane] really stepped up. But our younger kids are now figuring out, defensively, how to play right and how to get after people. I think we’re going to be the smaller team every time we play, but we’re getting better and better with our rebounding. I think that really showed up in the second half.”


Karla Cheesman led Celina with 11 points while sharp-shooting guard Caroline Morgan - who tallied 20 versus Melissa on Jan. 8 — was held to seven. “She was 2-of-5 from 3 in the last game we played them,” Oestreich said, “so we wanted to make sure she didn’t get going, and she didn’t. In fact, tonight, in the second half, No. 12 [Cheesman] probably hurt us worse than she did.”


Midway through the second quarter, a Gideon layup followed by Clemmons’ steal and layup chopped Celina’s lead to 19-13 and sent the Lady Bobcats to timeout. Gideon kept up the pressure with a layup-and-1 and soon guard Grace Moothart drilled a top-of-the-key trey. Now, with Melissa down 23-20, it was game-on.


Two Graham free throws sent Melissa to within 23-22 before Morgan answered with a layup. Mia Ellis then found Graham for a fast-break basket and a Graham free throw would tie it at 25-all. Gideon’s next inside bucket — this one off a feed from Lane — gave Melissa the lead, 27-25, with a minute left in the half. A 3-pointer regained it for the Lady Bobcats and they took that one-point edge into the break.


Mia Ellis’ drive through the lane for 2 swiftly put Melissa back on top in the second half. After a 29-29 tie, Lane’s jumper in the lane had the Lady Cards up again - but three quick lead changes would follow. Celina led, 38-35, when Clemmons nabbed a steal and was fouled. After draining both free throws, her next pilfer job went to Lane for 2 and Melissa’s advantage was 39-38 after three.


The Lady Cards opened the fourth stanza with an 8-0 run, sparked by another Moothart 3 and inside points from Graham and Clemmons. Later, steals capped with layups by Graham and Clemmons kept Melissa up by 10 - 51-41 and 53-43, respectively. A Lady Bobcats trey cut the deficit to seven with 1:40 left but ensuing Melissa free throws — by Mya Ellis, Clemmons and Mia Ellis — were smooth as warm butter. Lane stood and dribbled out the game’s final 45 seconds as Melissa’s faithful rose to their feet and cheered.


At Gainesville on Jan. 22, the Lady Cards jumped out early then routed the Lady Leopards, 71-35. Gideon boosted Melissa’s charge with a game-high 18 points while Mia Ellis chipped in 11. Graham banged home three 3-pointers for the Lady Cards. Melissa shot to a 23-4 first-quarter advantage and cruised on to lead, 55-27, after three quarters. For Gainesville, Kathryn Creeks posted a team-high 13 points and Myricle Davis collected 12.


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Melissa 23 14 18 16 - 71


Gainesville 4 15 8 8 - 35


Melissa scoring – Ashley Gideon 18, Mia Ellis 11, Allie Graham 9, Charley Lane 9, Mya Ellis 7, Grace Moothart 6, Jaydyn Bullard 5, Sally Clemmons 2, Bionca Mays 2, Melayah Muhammad 2.


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Celina 19 9 10 9 - 47


Melissa 5 22 12 19 - 58


Melissa scoring – Ashley Gideon 19, Sally Clemmons 16, Mia Ellis 6, Grace Moothart 6, Allie Graham 6, Charley Lane 4, Mya Ellis 1.