Thirty-five years after their last state basketball tournament visit, the Lady Golden Wildcats of Melrose are headed to state in pursuit of a Class AA title.
Melrose ended its drought with a 57-47 win over Crockett County in the sectional game played at Melrose in front of a full house.
Head coach Ciara Johnson was a former player at Melrose. She went to state as a player and wanted her team have a similar experience. At halftime, she sought to focus her players.
“You have a gym full of people that are here to see you,” she said, reflecting on the talk at the break. “I told them you have got to make a show. We put a good half together.”
Chara Ferguson of Melrose led all scorers with 22 points and Destance Wallace added 20 for the Lady Golden Wildcats. The Cavaliers were paced by Mackenzie Butler, 16 points. Karmen Frost had 14 points and Yasmine Pankey had 12 points for Crockett County.
“A very tough game. We came out sluggish,” Johnson said. “At halftime, I regrouped my girls. I changed my game plan to take their point guard (Pankey) out of the game.”
The turning point in the game was the start of the third period. Melrose went on a 12-0 run behind the efforts of Wallace and Ferguson. They scored 15 of the 17 points in the period for Melrose while holding the Cavaliers to only 4 points.
The Cavaliers were a longshot to be playing in the sectional games, upsetting two favored teams before falling to Melrose.
“I am so proud of my team,” said Cavalier head coach Kayla Irvin. “Melrose is a great team. They really upped their defense of our point guard that has carried us all year.”
Looking at her team’s season, Irvin said, “These girls have overachieved. I am so proud of them. They are great players and great people.”
The Lady Golden Wildcats (30-5) will play on Thursday March 13 at 10 a.m. against Nolenville (27-4). If they advance, they will play Friday at 2:45 p.m.
The Championship game for Class AA will be on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. All games will be played in Murfreesboro at Middle Tennessee State’s Murphy Center.