PRINCETON — Friday, Jan. 13, brought nothing but good tidings for Melissa’s Lady Cardinals, who raced past Princeton, 56-35, to remain undefeated in district play. Melissa (3-0) stormed to a 16-6 first-quarter lead then withstood a brief second-quarter Lady Panther rally before staging a 14-2 run that effectively sealed the deal before halftime. After three stanzas, Melissa led, 50-24.

The two Taylors, Thomas and Carney, helped steer the Lady Cards’ rout with 11 points each and Lauren Brown added 10. Melissa’s hassling press defense, in place from the start, led to 22 steals — with Thomas and Sally Clemmons each collecting five thefts. Combined with the Lady Cards’ up-tempo offensive attack, it all spelled victory for Melissa.

Thomas and Charley Lane led Melissa with three assists each, and Brown’s four rebounds was tops for the team. Missy Mach’s 12 points were tops for the Lady Panthers, who, with the loss, fell to 0-2 in District 11-4A.

“Probably what impressed me the most about the kids tonight is that they were so mentally determined to win this game that we just started out really fast,” Lady Cards head coach Heather Lane.

Carney won the opening tip, sending the ball to Brown who drove the lane and was fouled. Seconds into the contest, Melissa led, 2-0, and a message was sent.

“Their center-tip person was a lot bigger than ours,” Lane said, “but Carney had her mind made up she was going to get it, and we did. That’s a big deal if you can be the first person to score, especially on opening night in their gym. It just kind of gets in their head a little bit. And our press was on all cylinders. We were getting steals, creating opportunities for each other.”

In the second stanza, with Melissa threatening to run away with it, Princeton staged an 8-0 run to draw within four points, at 18-14. The Lady Cards promptly threw down a 14-2 response, started with a three-point play from Clemmons, who drove the lane for 2, was fouled and swished the “and-1.” Carney added two more free throws and a 3 from the corner — then Conlin hit two from the charity stripe. Conlin followed that with a steal and lay-up before Clemmons closed out the blitz with another layup, and Melissa led, 32-16. As the halftime buzzer sounded, Thomas’ 3 from the deep-right corner set the margin at 36-20 for the break.

“We had changed presses and they scored on us a couple of times,” Lane said of Princeton’s run. “So we went back to the original press from the first quarter and that seemed to work better for us.”

Carney popped in two more 3s in the third quarter and the Lady Cards also worked it inside on nice feeds for layups — Krista Butterfield to Thomas and Carney to Thomas. In the fourth quarter, Brown got away for a fast-break layup to put Melissa up, 54-28.

Everyone got in the game this night for the Lady Cards.

“And that’s an awesome thing in a game like this,” Lane said. “You want to play your starters as much as possible, but we’re asking so much out of them … they get winded. So the role-players did a really nice job, especially Sally.”

“I just hope that they’re building confidence,” Lane said of her team. “I think our next opponent, Celina, is probably going to be our toughest test so far in district play. We just have to make sure they enjoy tonight, enjoy the win, but then refocus tomorrow when we go back to practice.”

— Rick Atkinson

Lady Cards at Aubrey

Melissa boosted its district record to 2-0 with a 59-36 win at Aubrey on Tuesday, Jan. 10. Krista Butterfield led the Lady Cardinals with 20 points and four steals. Taylor Carney collected four steals as well and poured in 11 points for Melissa. Carney also nabbed a team-high four rebounds and blocked two shots. Taylor Thomas tallied nine points and eight assists. Gabbi Grisso totaled a team-high 11 points for the Lady Chaparrals.

Melissa roared to a 20-9 first-quarter lead and held a 33-20 edge at the halftime break.

Lady Cards rout Bonham in district-opener

In a game postponed one day due to weather, Melissa’s Lady Cardinals popped Bonham, 82-28, on Saturday, Jan. 7, at Melissa High School’s Bird Cage. It was the district-opener for both teams. The Lady Cards (10-12, 1-0 Dist. 11-4A) were led by junior Taylor Thomas, who poured in 16 points, 10 assists and six steals. Teammate Natalie Conlin, also a junior, collected 15 points and five steals. All told, nine of Melissa’s ten players scored in the rout. Lauren Brown and Taylor Carney completed the list of Lady Cards double-digit scorers, with 15 and 14 points, respectively.

Freshman Averi Reeves tallied a game-high 19 points for the Lady Warriors.

The Lady Cards jumped out to a 27-11 first-quarter advantage then poured it on in the second stanza, outscoring Bonham 23-1 to lead 50-12 at halftime.