By Dave Wagner
ELIDA — Melrose’s Schuyler Cochran came up big in the final minute on Wednesday night.
Cochran found 6-foot-1 senior Audrey Hemminger for a tie-breaking layup with 42 seconds left, then added two insurance free throws 15 seconds later as the Lady Buffaloes upended Elida 54-50 in a District 3-1A tournament girls semifinal game.
Hemminger, who scored 11 of her game-high 22 points in the final period, and Cochran, who added 15 points, provided a 1-2 punch that the second-seeded Lady Tigers (17-8) weren’t able to offset.
Melrose (13-14), seeded third in the five-team event, guaranteed itself a berth in regional competition next week and advances to play at top-ranked and unbeaten Fort Sumner (25-0) on Friday night for the district championship.
The Lady Buffs’ depth wore Elida down, and they turned the tables on the Lady Tigers after losing to them in district tourney play each of the past couple of years.
“We knew we could beat them,” Cochran said, “but we all had to believe we could do it.”
Senior Casey Ford scored 15 points, junior Kodi Armitage 13 and senior Adrienne Coe 10 for Elida.
“We couldn’t get the ball to go down,” Lady Tigers coach Dan Howard said. “It seemed like our shots rolled out a lot of times and theirs rolled in, but Melrose played real well. They’re an aggressive team, and they just keep getting better.”
Melrose scored the game’s first six points, but that proved to be the biggest lead for either team. The Lady Buffs led by five points briefly late in the half, while Elida was never able to mount more than a two-point advantage.
“It was a great basketball game,” first-year Melrose coach Jason Lee said. “Those are the kind that are a lot of fun to be a part of.
“I thought defensively we played very well tonight, and that’s what we had to do. We’re not a team that’s going to score 70 points.”
Neither team led by more than two after the first 30 seconds of the third quarter until Cochran’s game-clinching free throws. Armitage hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first minute of the final quarter to put Elida in front 42-40, but the Lady Tigers didn’t score from the field the rest of the way.
With the score 50-50, Cochran drove into the lane from the left wing and bounced a pass underneath to Hemminger for a layup.
“We were just reading each other,” said Cochran, a 5-10 junior post. “If I think I’ve got a shot I’ll usually take it; if not, Audrey’s usually got a girl pinned.”
Howard said his team wasn’t able to get key stops on defense.
“We couldn’t shut them down,” he said. “We just could never get matched up the way we wanted to.”
District 3-1A tournament
Melrose 54, Elida 50
Melrose (13-14) — Zanessa Dodd 3, Janea Eshleman 3, Schuyler Cochran 14, Ta’Neil Roberts 4, Audrey Hemminger 22, Kelly Fish 6, Jamie Dickerman 2. Totals 18 12-19 54.
Elida (17-8) — Lyndsey Smith 7, Alicia Cross-Smith 2, Casey Ford 15, Kodi Armitage 13, Adrienne Coe 10, Shalie Anthony 3. Totals 17 11-21 50.
Melrose 12 16 10 16 — 54
Elida 9 16 11 14 — 50
3-pointers — Melrose (6): Cochran 2, Fish 2, Dodd, Eshleman. Elida (5): Armitage 2, Ford 2, Smith.