By Rick Atkinson


For the Anna-Melissa Tribune


MESQUITE – It didn’t take long Feb. 18 for Melissa’s Lady Cardinals to take control of their Class 4A Region II bi-district playoff game with Dallas Hillcrest. From the moment guard Mya Ellis swished home a 3 on Melissa’s first shot till forward Katie Sparks’ layup off a slick feed from guard Wendy Clemmons at the end, the outcome at West Mesquite High School was never in doubt.


Leading, 41-16, at halftime the Lady Cards (22-11) cruised on to a decisive 76-40 victory - and an area-round berth versus Carrollton Ranchview (17-14) Feb. 21 at Frisco Memorial High School.


Ten Melissa players garnered points this night, with half of them reaching double figures. Guard Jayden Bullard led with a team-high 15 points as guard Wendy Clemmons earned a double-double, with 11 points and 11 assists. Forward Ashley Gideon and guard Mia Ellis chipped in 10 points apiece while guard Grace Moothart delivered a team-best three of Melissa’s 11 treys on the night.


As a bonus, every Lady Card saw playing time - including guard Inaya Hines and forward Amerson Hoyt, and JV call-ups Hannah Plate and Gracyn Johnson. All played well. Plate led this group with eight points.


Hillcrest’s top scorer this season, ShanDrea Yeldell, got hers - 21 points with five 3s - but the Lady Panthers (18-12) never threatened.


“I thought we played well, especially offensively,” Melissa head coach Chris Oestreich said. “We found the holes, we hit shots, we kind of found our stroke again. Defensively, I thought we were pretty good, especially when we were able to play them full court. … We did exactly what we should’ve done tonight.”


Oestreich added, “We didn’t do a bad job on the boards. I thought Ashley did a good job and Jayden Bullard did a good job on the glass. And the rest of the girls kind of complimented those two. You know, Mia Ellis does a good job on the glass. People don’t see that. It doesn’t always show up in the stats.”


What did Oestreich know about Hillcrest coming in? “[Yeldell] is their best player - and if they’re going to score, she has to score and she has to create it.”


“We came out with good offense, good defense. It led us to a good start,” Mya Ellis said.


Said Gideon, “I thought we played really well together a team - made good plays, made good shots. It was working all together pretty well.”


As for Melissa’s dominance on the boards,” Mia Ellis noted, “We started boxing out really good underneath, got into our positions.”


Hoyt closed out the first frame the way Mya Ellis started it – with a 3-pointer, this one using a little backboard from the right side.


In the second quarter, Moothart dished a 4-point play after being fouled on a swished 3. That sent Melissa’s lead to 34-11 and Gideon soon followed with a steal and coast-to-coast layup. After the Lady Panthers banged home a 3 to trail, 36-14, Bullard’s ensuing trey and right-side jumper on successive possessions sent the margin to 27 with under a minute left in the half.


Down, 41-16, to open the third stanza, Hillcrest’s fortunes would not improve. After Clemmons and Moothart worked it inside for layups by Mya Ellis and Mia Ellis, respectively, the lead was 55-24. Moothart finished the frame with a buzzer-beating jumper from the left side that pushed the advantage to 57-26.


In the fourth, Mia Ellis sank her second 3-pointer of the contest and Plate added her two from downtown. In the game’s final two minutes, Plate got loose for a fast-break layup and Johnson followed with a put-back basket for a 74-38 Lady Cards lead. Then, with under 10 seconds to go, Sparks’ layup off a nice Hines assist closed out the scoring.


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Hillcrest 11 5 10 14 - 40 Melissa 28 13 17 19 - 76


Melissa scoring – Jayden Bullard 15, Wendy Clemmons 11, Ashley Gideon 10, Mia Ellis 10, Mya Ellis 9, Hannah Plate 8, Grace Moothart 6, Amerson Hoyt 3, Katie Sparks 2, Gracyn Johnson 2.