By Rick Atkinson


For the Anna-Melissa Tribune


FRISCO – In a basketball playoff rematch from last year, Melissa’s Lady Cardinals again defeated Carrollton Ranchview in the Class 4A Region II area round – this time by a 55-47 count at Frisco Memorial High School. And like a year ago, the Lady Wolves - with plenty of physicality and good size - presented some problems before the Lady Cards wrested back control.


Ranchview led, 23-15, midway through the second quarter before the Lady Cards put on a stirring 10-0 run to lead by two at halftime. Melissa similarly put down a Lady Wolves third-stanza push and led, 44-34, by frame’s end.


With the win, the Lady Cards (23-11) were set to advance to meet Dallas Pinkston (27-5) in the regional quarterfinals Feb. 25 at Richardson’s JJ Pearce High School. Melissa thumped Pinkston in last year’s third playoff round, 62-49 - a win that sent the Lady Cards to the regional tournament for the first time in program history.


Melissa forward Ashley Gideon tallied a team-high 17 points versus Ranchview (17-14), stacking multiple baseline jumpers off of kick-out feeds from Lady Card guards Wendy Clemmons and Mia Ellis. Guard Mya Ellis was next among Melissa scorers, canning 11 points with a team-best three 3-pointers.


For the Lady Wolves, guard Brianna Garner posted a team-best 17 points, with three 3s as well.


“No. 5 [Garner] is an unbelievable shooter,” Melissa head coach Chris Oestreich said. “We had some problems finding her earlier in the game. … We kept 30 [Alivia Session] from getting going too much. She’s a really, really good player.


“But I thought our guards, collectively, did a good job of containing their dribble penetration and harassing them with pressure. When we went to man-to-man [in the second quarter] it was tough for them. That 1-3-1 [zone] that we use was a nice change of pace. Then Wendy was tremendous. Mya kept us in the game in the first half hitting 3s, then Wendy was hitting lanes and finding Ashley. Wendy, Ashley, Mya – the whole group – they were pretty dang good tonight.”


This one got chippy down the stretch, with three technical fouls served up in the fourth quarter – two on frustrated Ranchview as its season slipped away. “They were still as aggressive as they were last year,” Mia Ellis said. “Then they started hitting their shots more. … It was concerning, but I knew we would be able to come back. I knew we were trying even harder. We’re trying to get back to where we were last year – Round 4, and further.”


Said Clemmons, “They came out really fast and we weren’t expecting that. We knew they were good but didn’t know they had the tempo like that. So we just had to play our speed and go back to what we know.” As for trailing by eight in the second quarter, Clemmons said, “We just had to pick ourselves up and go back to the offense and defense that was working.”


In the first quarter, two Mya Ellis treys and one from guard Grace Moothart helped Melissa keep pace. A steal by Mia Ellis, Jayden Bullard’s block and a Clemmons drive for 2 also boosted the Lady Cards as the teams scratched out a 13-13 tie by the end of one.


Ranchview surged ahead, 21-13, to open the second stanza - a run capped by a swished left-corner 3. When the Lady Wolves got to 23-15 with 3:41 to go in the first half, Oestreich called the game’s first timeout. Having switched to man-to-man from zone some three minutes earlier, that move quickly started paying dividends when Melissa retook the court.


First, Clemmons nabbed a steal and got to the free-throw line for a point. She then pilfered another ball that soon got to Moothart for a top-of-the key 3. Now down, 23-19, Gideon sank a jumper from the lane and Ranchview would be whistled for a charge on its next possession. Clemmons’ ensuing jumper tied it at 23-all with 15 seconds left in the half as Melissa fans roared their approval. Putting an exclamation point on the momentum flip, Clemmons picked one more steal near midcourt and took it to the house with 1.5 seconds to spare and the Lady Cards led, 25-23, at halftime.


In the third, Gideon’s short jumper off an inbounds pass had Melissa up, 31-28, but Garner would answer with a left-side 3. After Ranchview got to within 35-34 with three minutes left in the frame, Mya Ellis dished up a right-corner 3 to start a Lady Cards roll from which Ranchview would not recover. Three-straight Melissa baskets followed – one by Bullard, two by Gideon – and the Lady Cards were in control, 44-34, by the end of three stanzas.


Three technical fouls awaited in the fourth. With the Lady Wolves trailing, 44-36, Mia Ellis was “teed-up” on a questionable call when she fouled Garner on a breakaway layup. Garner missed both free throws and Gideon soon drained another jumper and Melissa led again by 10. Gideon’s next “J” was followed by Mia Ellis’ right-corner 3 - a dagger that put Melissa up, 51-39, with three minutes to go.


Mia Ellis then stopped-and-popped from the right side for a 53-45 advantage with 1:55 left. As Ranchview desperately tried to respond, Lady Wolves head coach Lyndzay Robertson drew the quarter’s second technical for mouthing about a perceived no-call on Melissa. Mya Ellis swished both of those freebies and the Lady Cards’ margin was a comfortable 55-47.


The final “T” came when Gideon was shoved by a Lady Wolf defender just before game’s end.


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Melissa 13 10 11 13 - 47


Ranchview 13 12 19 12 - 55


Melissa scoring – Ashley Gideon 17, Mya Ellis 11, Mia Ellis 9, Wendy Clemmons 7, Jayden Bullard 6, Grace Moothart 5.