MELISSA — With Christmas fast approaching, Melissa’s Lady Cardinals got into the spirit of giving on Friday, Dec. 15, at home — as in, giving a 20-4 third-quarter thumping to Class 4A Decatur enroute to a 48-39 comeback win. Melissa (17-3) overcame shots that wouldn’t go, a 13-2 first-quarter deficit, an eight-point halftime hole and a late Lady Eagles rally for the victory.
Senior forward Taylor Carney led the Lady Cards with 15 points, three blocks, three steals and four rebounds — team-highs all — while senior guard Taylor Thomas also tallied four rebounds with a team-high six assists and eight points. Junior guard Sally Clemmons rolled to 11 points with two steals on the night. Decatur (8-8) was led by guard Avery Luig’s 14 points.
While the Lady Eagles out-rebounded Melissa, 25-19, they suffered 17 turnovers to the Lady Cards’ 10 and tallied no blocked shots while Melissa rejected seven.
“They did a good job of threading the needle and finding the open person underneath us and they were able to score inside some,” Lady Cards head coach Heath Lane said of Decatur’s early success. “We just kept talking about hanging on. They were big and the refs were letting us play. That happens and you’ve just got to make adjustments.
“In the second half, we switched our press (defense) and … it really seemed to bother them. That was probably the difference. We try to preach all the time that your defense is your offense anyway. In the second half, when we were in that other defense, it allowed us to get probably 10 to 12 transitional points that we really needed in the first half.”
Down, 25-17, at halftime, Melissa erupted from the locker room with 20-straight points. Carney started the spree with a steal and a 3, followed quickly with another steal and a pass to guard Natalie Conlin who sent it back for a Carney lay-up “and 1.” Just like that, Melissa trailed, 25-23. Clemmons’ driving layup from the right side then tied the contest for the first time since 2-2 and her next close-in bucket — after another Carney steal — gave the Lady Cards their first lead of the game.
The barrage continued with another Carney 3 and a Clemmons layup followed by forward Charley Lane’s steal which led to Thomas’ dagger-3. Thomas’ driving layup then crowned the scoring tear and with 50 seconds left in the quarter, Melissa led, 37-25.
Just when it appeared the Lady Eagles might be done, they gathered themselves for a 12-0 run to tie. But, with four minutes left, Melissa had a final push remaining. First, Clemmons got to the line twice and nailed three-of-four free throws. Soon after, Thomas tossed a deep pass to a wide-open Lane under the basket and the Lady Cards’ cushion was 42-37. After a Clemmons steal and coast-to-coast drive for 2, senior guard Natalie Conlin put the game away with four-straight free throws in the game’s final minute.
The seeds of Melissa’s rally perhaps actually sprouted earlier, after the Lady Eagles had charged to that early 13-2 lead, a push capped with a big 3-pointer. That trey sent the Lady Cards to timeout with 1:35 left in the first frame and out of that break Melissa stirred to life. First, Lane nabbed a steal and Carney finished the play with a 3 as the quarter’s final seconds ticked off.
The Lady Cards’ run continued to 10-4 in the second stanza with layups from Alisha Nicholas and Ashley Gideon and 3s from Thomas and Carney. Decatur recovered to maintain an eight-point edge at the break, but the Lady Eagles’ momentum had been broken.
“We’ve been down before,” Lane said, “and they just fight back. That’s what I told them at the end of the game: ‘When you’re down and you fight back, that’s how championship teams perform.’ They were patient and when they hit those big buckets it really gave us a boost, gave us a shot in the arm.”
Melissa’s next game is Tuesday, Jan. 2, versus Pottsboro at home. District play begins Friday, Jan. 5, when the Lady Cards travel to Bonham.
Melissa scorers: Taylor Carney 15, Sally Clemmons 11, Taylor Thomas 8, Natalie Conlin 6, Charley Lane 4, Alisha Nicolas 2, Ashley Gideon 2.