By Rick Atkinson
For the Anna-Melissa Tribune
Melissa’s Lady Cardinals improved to 4-0 in district play with a convincing 49-31 win over Sanger Jan. 21 at Melissa Middle School.
Forward Ashley Gideon led the Lady Cards with 10 points as guards Wendy Clemmons, Jayden Bullard and Mya Ellis each tallied nine. Guard Mia Ellis pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds and also sank three-of-four free throws.
For Sanger, 2019 District MVP Chloe Malone and sophomore standout Bella Ringenberg were held to eight points apiece.
“They change defenses well,” Melissa head coach Chris Oestreich of the Lady Indians, “so I felt like we needed to really push in transition – which we did – and play our man-to-man [defense] well, defend the inside. No. 15 [Malone] and No. 12 [Ringenberg] are really good. If you take those two kids away, you kind of feel like you’ve got a better chance to beat them.”
The Lady Cards churned to a 26-12 halftime advantage and twice led by 20 points in the second half. Sanger cut the margin to 39-29 with four minutes left to play but the lead quickly shot back to 18.
“I never felt like it was in jeopardy,” Oestreich said. “I felt like our kids had control of the game. We let the tempo get away from us. What I mean by that is we didn’t continue to push there for a while. … We’ve got to continue to always push our transition, get out on a run, then that gets us playing better, defensively. One feeds the other.”
Coming off a 13-assist outing at Gainesville, Clemmons posted nine more versus Sanger – along with six steals and four rebounds.
“We’ve learned to use that in a great way,” Oestreich said of Clemmons’ wealth of assists. “[Guard] Grace [Moothart] is a beneficiary of that because she gets open looks. And [Clemmons] creates offense for Ashley. But our other girls have now gotten into the act too and they’re trying to share the ball. The other night when Wendy had 13 assists, I think Grace had four and we had somebody else with three. It’s kind of like shooting. If somebody’s knocking them down other people kind of start to feel it too.”
Melissa led 21-10 with two minutes left in the first half. The margin went to 14 by the break boosted by a Clemmons drive down the lane for two and Moothart’s dagger left-corner three off Clemmons’ assist.
Clemmons opened the third frame with a driving layup from the left side. Moments later, Mya Ellis took a fast-break pass from Clemmons and banked home a layup-and-one for a 31-14 lead.
Gideon came right back with another layup-and-one – assisted again by Clemmons – and Clemmons followed with a big three for a 37-14 edge. Melissa’s lead swelled to 20 for the first time, 38-18, on Moothart’s free throw with five ticks left in the third stanza.
Sanger got inside for two quick layups to open the fourth and Oestreich called timeout. The Lady Indians kept chipping and got to within 39-29 on a three from the left side of the key. With three minutes to go, Mya Ellis helped regain the momentum for the Lady Cards with 2 off the glass for a 42-29 lead.
Steals by Clemmons and Mya Ellis down the stretch led to a pair of free throws and - with Melissa up 47-31 - Gideon closed it out with a layup off another Clemmons feed.
At Aubrey on Jan. 24, the Lady Cards (4-1) took their first district loss in a low-scoring affair, 35-31. The Lady Chaparrals (4-1) held a 16-15 edge at halftime and eased ahead by four by the end of three quarters. Mia Ellis’ 10 points led Melissa scorers while Gideon chipped in eight.
For Aubrey, Kathimae Dow posted a team-high 12 points, including a game-high three three-pointers.
Sanger 6 6 6 13 - 31 Melissa 18 8 12 11 - 49
Melissa scoring – Ashley Gideon, 10; Wendy Clemmons, nine; Mya Ellis, nine; Jayden Bullard, nine; Grace Moothart, seven; Mia Ellis, five.
Melissa 12 3 9 7 - 31
Aubrey 10 6 12 7 - 35
Melissa scoring – Mia Ellis, 10,; Ashley Gideon, eight; Jayden Bullard, five; Grace Moothart, three; Wendy Clemmons, three; Mya Ellis, two.