COMMERCE – The Melissa Lady Cardinals’ second-straight history-making season came to an end


Feb. 29 at Texas A&M University-Commerce. But their 55-45 loss to state power Dallas


Lincoln in the Class 4A Region II finals won’t be remembered near as much as what these Lady Cards


accomplished in 2020: getting closer to the state tournament than any Melissa girls hoops team ever


has.


Feb. 28 at this same venue, the Lady Cards bested Brownsboro in the regional semifinals, 53-50, to


advance past where their season ended last year, in the program’s first-ever trip to the regional tourney.


Guard Wendy Clemmons poured in a team-high 20 points for Melissa while Lady Cards forward Ashley


Gideon added 19 in battling Brownsboro.


Versus Lincoln, it was the Lady Tigers’ speed, full-court pressure and timely 3-pointers that proved to be


the difference. That, and missed Melissa free throws down the stretch. The Lady Cards (20-17) put on a


magnificent rally from 17 points down in the fourth quarter to get within 41-37 - but from there Lincoln


(26-8) won the free-throw duel, draining 12-of-15 tries as Melissa hit 1-of-7.


What did second-year Lady Cards head coach Chris Oestreich tell his team as the fourth stanza began,


down 39-24?


“We just told them they needed to fight,” he said. “We needed to get up in them and, of course, we


changed to man-to-man [defense] and that let us pressure them some. We felt like if we forced them to


drive they would miss some shots and maybe we’d have a chance – and we did. We hit some shots.


[Guard] Mia Ellis came up really big there. Wendy did a good job and Ashley did a good job.


“What almost bit us yesterday [versus Brownsboro], really bit us today. The killer was free throws.”


Concerning Lincoln, Oestreich said, “They’re just so quick and athletic. They do what they do well, and


that’s try to create chaos. They take you out of your comfort zone. They did a better job of that than we


did of staying organized.”


Lady Tigers guard Nakia Brumley knocked down a game-high 19 points while Mia Ellis’ 11 points was


tops for Melissa.


“I knew they were going to make a run,” first-year Lincoln head coach Darrin Samuels said. “We knew


we had a great lead and we knew we could keep the lead. It was just a matter of keeping everybody on the same page. I’m so proud of our ladies for working hard. We came out at halftime and made sure we were going to make them come out of their 1-3-1 zone [defense]. And when they did we took advantage of it.”


From Melissa’s standpoint, though, switching from zone to man-to-man forced the Lady Tigers into


quicker shots - which contributed to the Lady Cards’ comeback. A Jayden Bullard steal capped by Mia


Ellis’ right-corner 3 started Melissa’s final big push of the season. Gideon followed with a put-back layup


and the Lady Cards trailed, 41-29, with 5:30 left to play.


Mia Ellis’ next deep ball cut the margin to 41-32 and got fans on both sides of the arena back to the edge


of their seats. The Lady Tigers’ next 3-attempt missed and when Mia Ellis swished her third 3 in just over


two minutes, Melissa fans went nuts.


Leading now, 41-35, Lincoln missed a free throw signaling a clear momentum shift. Gideon came back


with a jumper in the lane and this was anybody’s game with 3:21 left to play. From there, though, the


Lady Tigers slowly clawed on to win the all-important late free-throw duel.


Samuels offered praise for his senior guard Alexis Brown and for Brumley, who just had a family member


pass away. “The funeral was today,” he said. “She was playing in honor of her family. I can’t say too


much about these two young ladies and what they did for us.”


For Melissa’s two seniors - Gideon and guard Mya Ellis - the Feb. 29 game marked the end of their Lady


Card careers. “It’s amazing,” Gideon said. “I’m so thankful to be a part of this program. It’s meant


everything to me and I can’t thank my teammates and coaches enough.”


Said Mya Ellis, “We did as much as we could. I’m proud of our outcome. We didn’t led them push us out.


We continued to battle. I’m just happy to be a part of it. There’s no negatives. It’s all positives from


here.”


As for Lincoln’s game, Gideon said, “They were just super-fast and quick and they definitely rushed the


game.”


In the first quarter, the Lady Tigers forced six Melissa turnovers and nabbed six steals enroute to a 12-7


lead. Three Lincoln 3s in that stanza were offset by Mya Ellis’ right-side trey and lone 2-point baskets


from Clemmons and forward Katie Sparks.


In the second frame, Melissa drew to within 12-11 on guard Grace Moothhart’s driving layup and a


jumper from Gideon. Gideon’s steal off a Jayden Bullard deflection then led to Mya Ellis’ second 3 and


the Lady Cards’ first lead of the game, 14-12. Sparks’ baseline jumper had Melissa up, 16-13, before the


Lady Tigers tied it with a 3.


Ensuing back-to-back layups gave Lincoln the lead for good at 20-16. With a minute to go before


halftime, the Lady Tigers took separation at 25-18 with a crucial left-side 3. Mya Ellis’ free throw got one


back just before the break.


To start the third quarter, a Lincoln 3-pointer put the Lady Tigers ahead, 28-19. Armed with that lead,


and as Lincoln fans sensed victory, Coach Samuels’ charges slowed it down - way down, at times. With


his guards dribbling away perhaps two minutes of the frame, the Lady Tigers led, 39-24, to open the


fourth, but Melissa still mounted that last memorable surge.


Regarding the Lady Cards’ history-making win over Brownsboro Feb. 28, Oestreich said, “Honestly, it


was a little numbing just for the fact that you know you’ve got to come play again today – and today is


the most important day. I don’t want to say I didn’t enjoy it but I think we moved on pretty quick,


because the goal is to get to [the state tournament in] San Antonio. We got within 10 points. Hopefully,


we can get back here next year and make a good run.”


_________________________________________________________________


Melissa 7 12 5 21 - 45


Lincoln 12 13 14 16 - 55


Melissa scoring – Mia Ellis 11, Wendy Clemmons 9, Mya Ellis 9, Ashley Gideon 8, Katie Sparks 4, Grace


Moothart 2, Inaya Hines 1, Jayden Bullard 1.


__________________________________________________________


Brownsboro 13 15 8 14 - 50


Melissa 17 14 13 9 - 53


Melissa scoring – Wendy Clemmons 20, Ashley Gideon 19, Mia Ellis 8, Mya Ellis 3, Jayden Bullard 3.