By Eric Butler: Freedom Newspapers
SANTA ROSA — Patient ball-control on offense and hard-nosed, ball-hawking on defense was the formula Melrose hoped would lead to victory on Friday. In the semifinals of the Lady Lion Classic in Santa Rosa, scores of 6-4 after one quarter and 17-10 after another were firm indications that the Lady Buffaloes got their way as far as tempo was concerned.
But the host Lady Lions, leading by scant margins throughout, pulled away at the start of the fourth quarter for a 33-25 win.
Melrose (1-6) took its first lead of the night when a 3-pointer by Lauren Widner found the bottom of the net with 4:15 left in the third period. The basket capped off an 8-0 run for the Lady Buffaloes at the onset of the second half.
But Santa Rosa (6-3) bounced right back as Dominica Sena and Josie Barela hit consecutive shots to give the Lady Lions a 21-18 advantage. Still, at the end of three quarters, Melrose only trailed 23-20.
Lady Lions guard Reena Tenorio retrieved her missed 3 to start the fourth period and made the putback attempt to make the score 25-20. Another basket by Barela came before the Lady Buffs’ Toni Burdine scored her team’s first basket of the fourth with 5:15 left.
“We have to play that way, we’ve just had trouble scoring,” said Melrose coach Jason Lee, whose team beat Dexter in a quarterfinal game the night before.
“Defensively, that’s a pretty good effort — 33 points. But we don’t bring enough focus to the offensive end of the floor. A couple of times we’d set up to run something and, for some reason, we just kind of lose our heads.”
Melrose was still within striking range at 27-22 until Barela scored for Santa Rosa on a feed from Sena with less than three minutes remaining. The Lady Buffs committed a turnover on the inbounds play following the goal, and Sena made a layup for a 31-22 lead.
“That one little 30-second lapse right there, they scored. Bang-bang, that put us in a hole right there,” Lee said.
Britana Campos and Barela scored 10 points apiece to lead the Lady Lions, while Schuyler Cochran’s five were a team high for Melrose.
The Lady Buffs will play McCurdy in the third place game at 6 p.m. tonight.
Fort Sumner, which got 16 points and 14 more from Lindsay Mansell in a 65-33 victory over Questa on Friday, will take on Dexter in the fifth-place game.