Vixens continue to roll in District 3-1A

Melrose’s Audrey Hemminger shots over Fort Sumner’s Tobea Patterson during the second half of Friday’s game in Melrose. Hemminger finished with a team-high 21 points. Photo by Eric Kluth

By Dave Wagner

MELROSE — Melrose’s size matched up reasonably well with Fort Sumner’s speed on Friday night — for a half.

Then the Vixens broke loose behind junior guard Sandy Fortner, running off a 19-2 spurt over less than four minutes of the third quarter en route to a 71-40 District 3-1A girls victory.

Fortner, who netted 20 of her 27 points in the second half, converted an offensive rebound and two Melrose turnovers into six points in a span of 57 seconds as the Vixens (16-4, 4-0 district) took a stranglehold on the 3-1A race.

“In the second half, our speed kicked in,” Fort Sumner coach Brian Fortner said. “That, and our outside shooting.”

Fort Sumner converted seven 3-pointers in the contest, including three by Sandy Fortner and two each by junior Tobea Patterson and sophomore Lindsay Mansell.

Mansell finished with a career-high 14 points, while Patterson added 11.

“They’re very tall and really aggressive,” Mansell said. “We just have to be ready for their size when we play them.

“We go really hard in practice, and I think our speed has something to do with the fact that we’re in good shape.”

Junior post Audrey Hemminger had a strong game around the basket and led Melrose (7-12, 2-2) with 21 points, but on this night she got little help.

Mansell and Melrose sophomore Schuyler Cochran traded 3-pointers in the opening two minutes, but the Vixens promptly went on a 7-0 run capped by a Patterson trifecta and never relinquished the lead.

The Lady Buffs, though, did manage to hang around despite 20 first-half turnovers. They pulled to 22-17 at halftime, and cut the margin to three on Hemminger’s stickback 22 seconds into the third stanza.

That’s when Sandy Fortner took over, helping Fort Sumner outscored the Lady Buffs 49-23 in the second half.

Melrose finished the game with 34 turnovers. Many were caused by Sandy Fortner, who simply took over the game, Lady Buffs coach Sheila Roberts said.

“Once you let her loose, it’s over,” Roberts said. “We just didn’t show up after the half.”

Brian Fortner said the Vixens did a better job of keeping Melrose’s big girls away from the glass in the final two periods.

“Their height is hard to get used to,” he said. “The big thing was we tried to wear them down.”

Sandy Fortner and her twin sister, Kelly, daughters of the coach, have given the Vixens an explosiveness they’ve lacked in the past, according to Mansell.

“They’re very athletic,” she said. “They just kind of put us over the top, I think.

“Our goal is to win state. I guess that’s everybody’s goal, but I think we’re willing to work for it.”