By Rick Atkinson
For the Anna-Melissa Tribune
MELISSA – Melissa had a shot at a basketball district co-championship Feb. 11, on Senior Night at Melissa Middle School, but first-place Aubrey quickly put that scenario at risk with a 15-5 first-quarter burst.
The Lady Cardinals battled hard from there but the visitors, led by guard Kathimae Dow, managed to make their early push stick, taking a 47-40 win for the outright District 11-4A title. Dow posted a game-high 19 points for Aubrey (9-1), including three 3s, with 16 points coming in the second half. For Melissa (7-3), guard Mya Ellis put up a team-best 14 points on the strength of four big treys.
“I was proud of how hard our kids played,” Lady Cards head coach Chris Oestreich said. “Our kids showed a lot of heart and courage. We played super-hard, defensively. We just played a little sped up on offense because of their length. Their length really affected us. The big kid that they have at the top of the 1-2-2 [zone defense] took some things away that we could normally get easily, and forced some turnovers for us – especially early in the game. I thought we adjusted as the game went on.
“In the end it came down to hitting shots, and we just didn’t hit.”
Melissa was set to wrap its regular season as the district’s second seed when it met Hillcrest in the bi-district playoffs Feb. 18, at West Mesquite High School.
“I feel really good about this team going into the playoffs,” Oestreich said in advance of the game. “I feel like this group could make a really nice run like last year’s group. Obviously, people are in the playoffs because they won games, so you’re not just going to cake-walk through any of them. But I think we’re set up to be very successful in the playoffs.”
Playing their final game at Melissa’s venerable “Bird Cage” this night were Lady Card seniors Mya Ellis and Ashley Gideon.
Melissa outscored the Lady Chaps after that first stanza, though not by enough.
Down, 18-5, in the second quarter, the Lady Cards rallied with two Mya Ellis 3s and one from Mia Ellis to trail, 24-18, by halftime. During that push, Mya Ellis raced half-a-court-length to save a ball from going out of bounds – an effort that led to the Mia Ellis trey. After the break, Mya Ellis started where she left off - stroking home a 3-pointer - and the deficit was down to three.
After Aubrey bounced back ahead, 30-21, with 2:30 left in the third, Gideon answered with a layup-and-1 off a steal.
The Lady Cards kept up the defensive pressure and trailed, 30-25, as the third stanza waned. That’s when Dow toed the arc for a key 3, giving Aubrey an eight-point advantage heading into the final frame.
In the early fourth, a pair of Lady Card 3s wouldn’t go as Aubrey stretched its lead to 36-25. Guard Jayden Bullard’s straight-on downtowner off a Wendy Clemmons feed gave Melissa hope, but Dow fired back a trey for 39-28 Lady Chaps advantage with four minutes left to play.
Soon, Mia Ellis’ steal led to a Clemmons layup and a seven-point deficit. Melissa would grab two more steals down the final stretch but get no closer than six points. Clemmons’ right-side 3 with seven seconds to go closed out the Lady Cards’ scoring.
Aubrey 15 9 9 14 - 47
Melissa 5 13 7 15 - 40
Melissa scoring – Mya Ellis 14, Wendy Clemmons 7, Ashley Gideon 7, Mia Ellis 6, Jayden Bullard 5, Grace Moothart 1.