HOWE — Melissa’s Lady Cardinals stormed to an 18-0 first-quarter lead then prevailed, 52-41, in non-district play at Howe on Tuesday, Nov. 7. The Lady Bulldogs, in their season-opener, responded to Melissa’s initial onslaught with a 16-8 second-quarter showing — then battled to a near-draw in the second half — but it wasn’t enough. The Lady Cards earned their second win of the young season with their hallmark scrappy defense, a slick transition game and timely shooting.


“I’m just thankful that we had a really good first quarter, lots of points in transition,” Melissa head coach Heather Lane said. “That cushion helped us finish the game. … Every year we scrimmage Howe and we have a tendency to beat them pretty bad. Then 10 days later, when we play the real game, they always play us a lot closer. (Howe head coach) Derek (Lands) does a really great job of making adjustments and getting his kids ready for the second time we play them.


Junior guard Sally Clemmons led Melissa with 17 points and six steals en route to shooting a team-high 64-percent from the field. Senior forward Taylor Carney followed with 12 points and senior guard Taylor Thomas added 9. Senior guard Natalie Conlin and Thomas posted three steals each and were a combined 9-for-9 from the free throw line.


Peyton Streetman posted at team-high 14 points for the Class 3A Lady Bulldogs, while teammates Payton Griffin and Callie Vick tallied 11 and 9, respectively.


The Lady Bulldogs out-rebounded Melissa, 22-17, with Carney posting a team-high six boards. Howe committed 23 turnovers, including 17 Melissa steals with Conlin and Thomas pilfering three apiece. The Lady Bulldogs posted no steals but received 11 Lady Card turnovers.


Melissa shot 38-percent from 2-point range and 30 from beyond the arc while Howe wound up posting 40-percent from both distances. Both teams shot near 80 percent from the charity stripe.


Three-pointers by Carney, Thomas and Fortenberry — and steals by Conlin and Clemmons — led Melissa’s decisive first-quarter charge. As the second stanza opened, back-to-back 3s got Howe on the board and with two minutes left before halftime the Lady Bulldogs had rallied to within 22-10. The Lady Cards’ lead was eight just seconds before halftime when Clemmons stopped-and-popped from the top of the key to give Melissa a 26-16 advantage.


Vick’s 3-pointer cut the deficit to seven to begin the Lady Bulldogs’ second half, but Howe would get no closer. After a Carney free-throw bulged Melissa’s lead to 34-21, Vick answered with a right-side jumper. The Lady Bulldogs then appeared to have something going after back-to-back layups from Streetman and Griffin, but four consecutive Melissa free-throws — two each from Clemmons and Gideon — soon boosted the margin to 40-28.


With five minutes remaining, Clemmons’ layup off a steal sent Melissa’s lead to 46-32, matching Lady Cards’ biggest second-half lead. A big 3 from Griffin drew Howe to within 49-40 with just over a minute left and Honore’s free throw made the margin eight before three-straight Carney free throws closed out Melissa’s victory.