By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
SANTA ROSA — A pair of Class 1A schools went up a classification as Melrose and Fort Sumner voyaged to the Lady Lion girls basketball tournament in Santa Rosa on Thursday.
For the Buffaloes, the trip was worthwhile. For the Vixens, not so much so.
Melrose (1-5) won its first game of the year by beating Class 2A Dexter 44-40 in the quarterfinal round. Fort Sumner (3-2), meanwhile, was turned aside by 2A McCurdy 42-35 in the first contest of the day.
In the Buffaloes’ win, 3-point shots — although few and far between — played a critical role. With both teams struggling with shooting woes, three Melrose players found net with long-range bombs at, or near the end of three of the periods.
With Dexter (5-4) holding a 10-7 lead as the first quarter was drawing to a close, the Buffaloes’ Kimberly Lyons tied the game with a 3. Those were the only points for the Melrose sophomore in the game.
As intermission approached, the Demons moved out to an 18-14 lead after an 8-2 run. But Buffs’ senior Schuyler Cochran drained a trey to stop that streak.
However, Zanessa Dodd’s 3-pointer with 2:27 on the clock turned out to be the key hoop in the game, putting Melrose up 43-39.
The shot came after Melrose’s Lauren Graham put a halt to a three-minute scoring drought for both teams by hitting hit one of two free throws with a little less than three minutes left.
“The biggest shot of the game, right there,” said Melrose coach Jason Lee of Dodd’s bucket.
“I was actually pretty surprised. I had just gotten slapped in the face — really,” said Dodd, who finished with eight points. “Maybe I should get slapped in the face more often.”
Cochran helped offset a dismal shooting night for the Buffaloes by scoring a game-high 19 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.
Dexter, which has played 3A Lovington and 4A Artesia already this season, was led by Karla Noriega’s 10 points.
“I’d put our schedule up against anybody,” said Lee, whose team will play Santa Rosa in an 8 p.m. semifinal tonight. “In the Farwell tournament, we played Farwell, Grady and Whiteface, Texas — all those are good teams. It (the start of the season) has been frustrating, but I know it’ll help us in the end.”
In an earlier quarterfinal, Fort Sumner players were stunned to find out their competition for the evening — McCurdy — came with only five players.
But those five came to play and pushed the Bobcats to a big 32-10 lead near the end of the second quarter and, despite being extremely shorthanded, McCurdy (4-3) held on to earn a spot in the semifinals.
Fort Sumner will play Questa in a consolation bracket game today at 2:30 p.m.
“We noticed in warm-ups they only had five. We were kind of confused and we asked coach, but he said he thought there were more in the back,” said Vixens’ senior Lindsay Mansell, who scored 12 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. “I think we kind of got big heads. We like to run, but they were in way better shape than we thought they would be.”