By Rick Atkinson, For the Anna-Melissa Tribune


MELISSA – In a physical battle between two rivals Feb. 4 at Melissa Middle School, Melissa’s Lady Cardinals took care of business in defeating Anna 53-31. The Lady Cards jumped out to a 19-10 lead after one quarter and held a comfortable 30-15 edge by halftime. The contest slowed bit in the third frame as Anna chipped back to within 10 points, but Melissa put on a big 17-8 final-stanza finish.


The Lady Cards won the last meeting with Anna, 61-28, Jan. 17.


With two regular-season games to go, Melissa (7-1) can claim the district title with wins over Sanger and Aubrey. The Lady Coyotes (4-4) can still make the playoffs as a fourth seed with a win over either Aubrey or Celina.


Guard Mya Ellis and forward Ashley Gideon canned a team-high 14 points for the Lady Cards and guard Grace Moothart added 10 for the victors. Mya Ellis also delivered a game-high four three-point baskets. All told, the Lady Cards hit nine threes to Anna’s three.


Forward Qua Fisher led the Lady Coyotes with 11 points and forward Lexi Stewart was next with seven. Anna went three-for-10 from the free-throw line and the Lady Cards drained six-of-nine.


“In the first quarter I thought we did a good job,” Melissa head coach Chris Oestreich said. “Then it lost its intensity and its flow throughout the rest of the game, really. … It definitely wasn’t our best effort. We got sloppy. Some of that is a credit to their defense. Their defense slowed us down and their athleticism bothers us a little bit.


“Mya got us off to a great start. And Ashley Gideon did a super job tonight … on both ends of the court. Grace got hot, which is what we need. But Grace did some things in the second half that people don’t see in the box score. She made some hustle plays and got some rotations on the defensive end that really made me smile.”


A scary moment occurred in the third quarter when Anna guard Kaycee Redwine hit the court hard after a collision with Lady Cards guard Wendy Clemmons. Redwine fell flat on her back, hitting the back of her head on the hardwood. As she grabbed her head with both hands, Anna head coach Justin Baldia and a Melissa trainer came onto the court to assist her. Redwine was down for about 10 minutes before walking off unsteadily with the aid of two people.


“She’s going to get checked out,” Baldia said. “We’re praying for her. Her teammates are really concerned. Obviously, we’re all concerned. She’s a senior and a great player for us. … We hope she’s OK.”


(It was later confirmed that Redwine was completing the concussion protocol.)


Anna’s Aubreanna Traylor and Melissa’s Mya Ellis also hit the floor hard during the contest but returned to action. Late in the game, Lady Coyote Shataelyn King was helped from the court as well after taking a hit to the lip.


“It was very physical,” Baldia said, “and most nights that benefits us. I think it did to a certain degree tonight as well. I think we’re a very tough team and we showed that tonight. We’re never going to back down. That’s one thing I love from our girls.


“Credit to Melissa. They shot the heck out of the ball. Anytime you give up 19 in a quarter, like we did in the first, it makes it difficult. But I was proud of the way we battled.


“We wanted to keep ourselves within striking distance. We didn’t want to get in a track meet with them. … We knew to be successful tonight we’ve got to keep [the score] low. Up until midway through the fourth quarter we did that.”


Melissa’s first-quarter lead ballooned to 17-2 before the Lady Coyotes closed out the frame with an 8-2 rally. Treys by Clemmons and Mya Ellis fueled that initial Lady Cards push and three-pointers from Stewart and Redwine boosted Anna’s answer.


In the second, Moothart fired home back-to-back threes - with a layup and a steal in between - to get Melissa to 27-10. A right-side three by Fisher stopped that run but Mya Ellis’ downtowner from the top of the key would give the Lady Cards their 15-point advantage at halftime.


After Redwine’s injury in the third, a subdued pace followed with Melissa managing a 6-4 edge to the end of the frame. Gideon’s put-back layup off a missed three and her Mya Ellis-assisted basket had the Lady Cards up, 36-21, before a Stewart layup replied for Anna.


In the final stanza, the Lady Cards cranked it up again - boosted by Jayden Bullard’s four-point play when fouled on a right-corner three. Mia Ellis followed with a left-side trey and Moothart finished off the scoring with a pair of free throws.


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Anna 10 5 8 8 - 31 Melissa 19 11 6 17 - 53


Anna scoring – Qua Fisher, 11; Lexi Stewart, 7; Kaycee Redwine, 5; Bre Traylor, 4; Marianna Bert, 2; Kylie Agerlid, 2.


Melissa scoring – Mya Ellis, 14; Ashley Gideon, 14; Grace Moothart, 10; Wendy Clemmons, 6; Jayden Bullard, 6; Mia Ellis, 3.