MELISSA — First-team all-district forward Taylor Carney has never been shy about making known what she wanted and going for it. As a plucky freshman on the Lady Cardinals’ JV basketball team, Carney walked into then-varsity head coach Claude Webb’s office to say, “When I get called up to varsity for the playoffs, I get to wear No. 22, right?” While that didn’t come to pass then, Carney soon got her wish and carried that number to great heights.

On Wednesday, April 11, in Melissa High School’s main gymnasium, Carney reached another goal: signing a national letter of intent to continue her educational and basketball career at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.

A three-year varsity player, Carney was the district Newcomer of the Year as a sophomore then a key contributor to back-to-back undefeated district championship seasons, including the Lady Cards’ recent 32-4 campaign and playoff run to the regional-quarterfinals. She also achieved in the classroom, earning academic all-state honors from both the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches and the Texas Girls Coaches Association.

“I’m just really happy that I finally got here,” Carney said. “I’ve been working so hard to finally get to this moment. I remember my freshman year, when I saw Katie Webb and all of them signing, I remember telling myself, ‘That’s going to be me one day.’ And I finally got to do that.”

The NCAA Division III Lady Pirates compete in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Association.

Carney said Southwestern was love at first sight.

“Whenever I first went there for camp, I loved it but I was also a sophomore so I was thinking there’ll probably be a bunch of other schools. But as I got older and I went to other camps there was just none others that I liked as much as that one.”

She plans to study computer science as well as cyber security.

Carney was joined at Wednesday’s celebration by her parents, Kelly and Christy Carney, sister Jordan Carney, brother Mason Carney and grandmother Karen Edgett, as well as a multitude of teammates, coaches and friends.

Jordan also played for the Lady Cards and was a senior when Carney was a sophomore.

“We started playing basketball when Jordan was about seven and Taylor followed suit,” Kelly said. “It’s the end of a journey. I’m really happy for her. And I’m really happy for the academic side at the school she wanted to go to. It’s a culmination of all those practices and coming up here [to Melissa High School]. … We’d come up here and do drills all summer long.”

Said Christy, “To see everything that she’s worked so hard for now become reality, that just makes me a proud parent. … The [Southwestern] campus is amazing. It’s gorgeous. And I’ve got family in the area.”

Carney said her role models have been her parents, her father in particular. “He taught me everything I know about basketball. And my high school coaches, they really helped me get together as a team and helped me become a leader.”

As for fond memories of her time at Melissa, Carney said, “I’ll definitely remember the Highway 5 tournament because that was the first tournament we had won. Then beating Wilmer-Hutchins in the area round this year. That was one of the greatest nights of my life. I will definitely remember that forever. It was overtime, it was close and the buzzer-beater. It was just the best thing ever.”

Lady Cards head coach Heather Lane addressed the gathering on Wednesday.

“When I took over the girls’ basketball program three years ago,” she said, “I remember talking to Taylor about her leadership and about her approach with her teammates. At the time, Taylor pretty much said what was on her mind. So we worked on a little more sugar and a little less spice, and she found the right mixture to earn her teammates’ respect, earn her coaches’ trust — yet say what needed to be said and help guide the Lady Cards to back-to-back district championships. She also helped us tie the 2009 team for deepest playoff run in girls’ basketball in Melissa High School history.

“Taylor came early, stayed late. She worked really hard to become a great basketball player. Every Lady Cardinal knew that Taylor had their back – as long as they agreed to get Whataburger after the game. … It has been a rewarding journey watching her develop, not only as a great basketball player but a great leader and teammate.”

“I’ll miss all my teammates,” Carney said, “especially the ones I played with for four years, and some of the girls I only played with a couple of years. I’ll definitely miss all of them, and just the program in general. Coach Lane and Coach Webb, they did a wonderful job.”