Melissa’s Lady Cardinals earned their second-ever trip the basketball regional semifinals Feb. 25 with a 57-54 win over Dallas Pinkston at Richardson’s JJ Pearce High School. Guard Mia Ellis blew up for 23 points to lead Melissa, including a crucial fourth-quarter 3-pointer and 12-for-17 shooting from the free-throw line. Lady Cards guard Wendy Clemmons rolled to 18 points, including five big 3s in the third quarter.
“It was pretty crazy, to be honest with you,” Melissa head coach Chris Oestreich said by phone the next day of this Class 4A Region II regional-quarterfinal match-up. “It was two teams really going at each other. It was physical. It was up and down. Wendy really got us going in the middle of the third quarter. Then late in the game, on kind of a critical possession, Mia Ellis hit a big 3-point shot on a step-back 3. That was, I think, the straw that broke the camel’s back. From that point on we led the rest of the way by either a bucket or two.”
In the end, Oestreich said, late free throws were the difference.
“The atmosphere was crazy,” he added. “We were the visiting team so their crowd was behind us. It was wild. Our fans were great.”
Melissa rallied from a 27-25 halftime deficit to lead, 50-44, by the end of three quarters.
The Lady Cards defeated Pinkston last year as well - in this same playoff round - to advance to their first-ever regional tournament. “It’s rewarding because your girls work so hard all year long,” Oestreich said of getting back to the regional tourney. “It’s what you work for, to advance as deep as you can. To see them celebrate after the win last night – we had the parents on the floor and the fans – was outstanding.
“As a coach … the thing you strive for is consistency and you want to get as deep as you can every year. You measure your program by that. If you look back and what Coach [Claude] Webb did with the program and what Coach [Heather] Lane did with the program – my task it to build on that. I think we’ve used the successes that they had to springboard us forward. We’re doing that. That’s what I was hired to do. I feel like we’re doing a good job of what we’ve been charged to do and we’re doing it the way that the people of Melissa would be proud of.”
Melissa 13 12 25 8 - 57
Pinkston 14 13 17 10 - 54
Melissa scoring – Mia Ellis 23, Wendy Clemmons 18, Jayden Bullard 8, Ashley Gideon 4, Mya Ellis 3, Grace Moothart 1.