By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
TEXICO — With a 5-foot-4 freshman post scoring a team-high 11 points, and nobody else getting over six, scorebook watchers might not believe that Elida actually stood much of a chance at winning the EPAC girls championship game on Saturday night.
But, thanks to an extremely off-night for Melrose, the Lady Tigers didn’t need to be spectacular. Merely efficient was good enough and Elida was that indeed in gradually pulling away to a 37-25 win in the finals.
The contest was close until the middle of the second quarter. Led by Shanna Anthony’s 11 points in the paint and at the foul line, Elida (13-2) extended a two-point advantage to eight by scoring the last six points of the opening period — on buckets by Morgan McBride, Nicole Jasso and a free throw by Anthony.
In a rare offensive outburst this night, Melrose (8-5) chopped its deficit to three when Alisha Wagley made a 3-pointer and Kimberly Lyons followed with a running layup to make the score 13-10 early in the second. However, that would be the last of the Lady Buffs’ scoring for the first half as Elida made the next seven points to go ahead 20-10 at intermission.
“We’ve been working very hard on our defense in practice, working to shut them down,” said Anthony, a freshman who also grabbed 10 rebounds against taller foes.
After scoring five points in each of the first two quarters, Melrose’s offense ground down to a bare minimum in the third period as the Lady Buffs scored only a single basket. Although Elida only had nine points itself in the quarter, the Lady Tigers entered the fourth with a commanding 29-12 advantage.
In the EPAC semifinals, Texico also had a poor shooting game against the Lady Tigers — a development Elida coach Dan Howard hinted might not be coincidental.
“That’s what Texico said, they had a bad shooting night last night too,” Howard said. “Our girls, the last two games, really stepped up and played big for us. We tried to man them until I felt we were getting in foul trouble, then we switched to a zone.
“That’s (Melrose) a good team right there. We knew we weren’t going to have no cakewalk here tonight. We had to play well and come out defensively, bring our A-game to town.”
In the last three minutes of the contest, Melrose scored nearly as many points (12) as it did for first 29 (13), but it was much too late to threaten the champion Lady Tigers.
Elida got six points apiece from Lindsey Smith and Janice Taylor, while Alicia Cross-Smith added five. For Melrose, Zanessa Dodd got into double figures with 10 points and Jamie Dickerman added six.