MESQUITE — Starting fast is something Melissa head coach Chris Oestreich has stressed to his charges in recent weeks. Monday night at Mesquite Poteet High School, dividends from that emphasis were never more apparent. The Lady Cards stormed to a 26-9 first-quarter advantage and were never threatened in routing Dallas Carter, 77-47, in the Class 4A Region 2 bi-district basketball playoffs.


The early offensive outburst and ultimate result was of course aided by Melissa’s 1-3-1 zone defense, an effective staple of late and a key to the team’s success down the stretch run.


Senior guard Sally Clemmons led the Lady Cards with 13 points while junior forward Ashley Gideon chipped in 12. Senior forward Charley Lane tallied 10 points - all in the first quarter, including two consecutive rout-sparking 3s. Sophomore guard Mia Ellis also bagged a pair of treys to finish with nine points while freshman guard Grace Moothart went 4-for-4 from the line for nine points as well.


Nia Mobley collected a team-high 12 points for Carter(15-13), the third seed from District 12-4A.


“Charley Lane got us going — we hit some shots inside then we hit a couple of 3s,” Oestreich said. “Sally was really pushing it, finding people the way we should. And they struggled to find a rhythm against our defense. I think that’s been the key the last three weeks: the defense, combined with starting fast offensively. The kids have put an emphasis on it.”


As an added bonus this night, every Lady Card on the playoff roster got into the game for decent minutes - seniors Me’layah Horton-Muhammad and Bionca Mays first. “It’s great to get your seniors in there and let them play,” Oestreich said. “Then get your JV kids in there, and they score and have some success. It’s important for them.” JV players included sophomore Katie Sparks, sophomore Inaya Hines and freshman Amerson Hoyt, each of whom tallied at least two fourth-quarter points.


Going forward, Oestreich said, “We’ve got to be able to play some man-to-man defense — and we will, we can. The ‘3’ defense that we’re been running has been really good but we’ve got be able to be confident in our man-to-man.”


“It was really fun,” senior guard Allie Graham said shortly after the final buzzer. “Going into it we were just planning on working together to get the win. Communication on defense was really the key to it.”


Said Lane, “When we started playing defense the way we have, that really just pushed us. But I just think we all wanted it really bad and we all did a good job of playing together. That’s what helped us score so much.” Lane added the Lady Cards will need to stay fundamentally sound and communicate as the playoffs progress.


“We didn’t throw away the ball and we were finishing our layups,” Clemmons said of Melissa’s early surge. “That’s how we got it done.” As for the Lady Cards’ zone, Clemmons said, “That’s how we beat Aubrey and Sanger, so we decided to try it again tonight. We’ve gotten really good at that.”


Clemmons said she enjoyed seeing teammates who haven’t played as much, and the JV players, get some playoff minutes. “They deserve it too. They practice with us.” Graham agreed. “That was so exciting,” she said. “That was the best part.”


“Honestly,” guard Mya Ellis said of the win, “it was our working together, getting better on the court, talking to each other, knowing where we’re all at. It’s what’s taking us for the journey. … Our defense is really good. I’m proud of how we are right now. We’re continuing to grow.”


In the first quarter, after Lane’s back-to-back treys propelled Melissa to a 14-7 lead, Clemmons drove the lane for 2 and was fouled. Her free throw sent the margin to 10 and the Lady Cards were off to the races. Bullard then drove the lane for a jumper and Lane added a layup off a head fake. Gideon’s layup with a Clemmons assist and a top-of-the-key 3 by Moothart closed out the frame with Melissa up 17.


To open the second stanza, Mia Ellis’ right-corner 3-pointer pushed the Lady Cards’ separation to 29-9. Sister Mya soon popped a left-side jumper for a 33-12 lead and Carter called timeout with 5:24 left in the half. Out of the break, Gibeon grabbed a rebound and fired an outlet pass to Clemmons who was fouled in the lane. She swished both free throws and soon Mia Ellis logged a layup-and-1 - a three-point play that made the Carter’s hole 40-17 deep. Two late buckets from Bullard gave Melissa a 46-20 edge at halftime.


Two minutes into the third quarter, Clemmons’ layup off a pass inside from Lane got the lead to 30 for the first time, at 52-22. Midway through the frame, Mia Ellis banged a 3-pointer off the glass to make it 59-26. Two Moothart free throws would push the advantage to 36 by stanza’s end.


In the fourth, as Oestreich got everyone into the game, the Lady Cards who were done for the night, along with Melissa’s fans, cheered wildly with each good play - including Hines’ big 3 from the top of the key that put the margin at 75-43. A Sparks put-back layup ended Melissa’s scoring for the evening.


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Carter 9 11 10 17 - 47


Melissa 26 20 20 11 - 77


Melissa scoring – Sally Clemmons 13, Ashley Gideon 12, Charley Lane 10, Mia Ellis 9, Grace Moothart 9, Jaydyn Bullard 9, Mya Ellis 6, Katie Sparks 4, Anaya Hines 3, Amerson Hoyt 2.