WHITESBORO — With plenty of new faces on the court Nov. 25 at Whitesboro, the Melissa Cardinals toppled the Class 3A Bearcats, 54-46, in early-season non-district action. Melissa (1-1) got out early - 11-5 after one quarter - and led 26-18 by halftime in a game that a young group of Cards fairly dominated.


“The majority of them are sophomores that were on the freshman team last year,” Melissa head coach Eric Benton said. “And in the two games we’ve played with them there have been literally zero moments where I thought they were intimidated or overwhelmed. It’s been exciting to watch.”


One of those sophomores, guard Hudson Czarnecki, rolled to a game-high 18 points - with three 3s – and also pulled down seven rebounds.


The Cards were without senior guard Ezra Monroe and senior forward George Lado, who were preparing to face Waco La Vega in the third round of the football playoffs. The pair, though, jumped at the chance to travel to Whitesboro for this game, Benton said.


“It would have been easy for those guys to say, ‘Hey, I had football practice all morning. I’m going to get a sandwich and prop my feet up.’ But this is where they’d rather be. They’re excited. They’re craving the success of others. And they were just as fired up for moments in the JV game. It says so much for them as young men.”


Joining Lado and Monroe in cheering on Melissa this night were new move-ins CJ Shellie and Montrae Shellie from Plano East, who’ll soon join the Cards’ roster.


Also missing from Melissa’s lineup was experienced sophomore guard Phoenix Bramhall, who was away for Thanksgiving. Sophomore Christian Quintero was called up from JV in his place and wound up keeping Whitesboro at bay down the stretch with four-straight free throws.


Soon after halftime, Kaden Segleski was fouled taking a 3-point shot and drained two from the line for a 28-20 Melissa advantage. Tavenor Watts’ big rebound led to a Justin Maina driving layup and Cards’ lead went to 30-20 with 6:20 left in the third quarter. When Whitesboro cut it to 6, Jayden Anthony answered with drive to the hoop for 2. As the frame ended, a Watts put-back layup and Czarnecki’s right-side jumper pushed the Cards’ margin back to 10, at 36-26.


Czarnecki opened the fourth with a stop-and-pop from the right side and moments later, back-to-back layups by Daxx Dunnahoe and Anthony sent Melissa’s lead to, 42-28. With under five minutes left to play, Watts’ block/steal led to a Czarnecki trey from the right-front. Soon, a close-range bucket by Dunnahoe gave the Cards their largest advantage of the night, 50-34, and from there, Melissa cruised to the finish.


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Melissa 11 15 10 18 - 54


Whitesboro 5 13 8 21 - 46


Melissa scoring – Hudson Czarnecki 18, Daxx Dunnahoe 9, Kaden Segleski 7, Jayden Anthony 5, Christian Quintero 4, Justin Maina 4, Tavenor Watts 4, Terry Nelson 2.