By Kevin Wilson
Two great minutes aren’t nearly enough to overcome nine bad ones on most nights. Against an undefeated Tatum team, it was even more difficult.
Abby Medlin had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Tatum survived a late Melrose burst for a 48-36 victory in the semifinals of the Eastern Plains Athletic Conference Tournament at Greyhound Arena.
Tatum (12-0) will meet Texico, a 47-44 winner over Logan, in the 6:30 p.m. Saturday championship, also at Greyhound Arena.
It looked early on like it would be a close contest between Melrose and Tatum, which sport much different rosters since the two played for the 2012 EPAC and the 2012 Class 1A title, both won by Melrose.
But a combination of poor shooting from Melrose and stingy defense from Tatum quickly turned things from a 9-5 Melrose lead late in the first to a 21-11 Tatum advantage going into halftime.
“We came out a little tight,” Tatum coach Greg Slover said. “We missed some easy baskets, but we’re getting better defensively and we were able to make some stops and take charge a little bit.”
Melrose (7-5), following a 3-pointer by Reagan Carthel with 1:38 left in the first, went the next 4:19 without attempting a shot and a total of 9:34 without scoring. Had it not been for a baseline putback by Carthel with four seconds left, the Lady Buffs would have suffered a scoreless second quarter.
At one point in the third quarter, Melrose had turned the ball over 20 times while scoring 16 points, and couldn’t find rhythm on offense or defense. Coach Caleb King said that made it tough for the team to get into its pressing game, where they were able to give Tatum fits in the fourth quarter.
“About three-quarters of the game were the worst we’ve played all season,” King said, “and two minutes were the best we’ve played all year in the exact same game.”
Caley Barnard, who matched Carthel’s 14 for team high, sparked a 10-2 run midway through the fourth with six points in a 1:05 stretch before Medlin held off the run with a pair of free throws and a basket off a pressbreaker.
Kevyn Ferriera added 13 for Tatum.
Slover was happy with the win, but had concerns with how Melrose was able to turn a 14-point deficit to just six in a span of two minutes.
“That’s something we’re going to have to bear down and work on,” Slover said.
King said the press worked for the most part, but it would hurt when Tatum would break the press, then decide to pull the ball back and take time off the clock instead of going for a quick layup against a lone Melrose defender — where King said he’s confident in any of his girls to make the play.
“We want them out of control,” King said. “If they take a bad shot, we can go right back at them.”
Melrose will face Logan in a 3 p.m. third-place matchup.
Texico 47, Logan 44 — Briana Reyna scored 15 points as the Lady Wolverines advanced for an opportunity at their 13th EPAC title and first since 2010.
Shelby Vannetta and Sarah Daniels each added seven for Texico (7-3), which could never quite pull away.
“The biggest thing that made a difference is we shot free throws well down the stretch,” Texico coach Richard Luscombe said. “We didn’t shoot many, but we were 5-of-6. Late in the game, we probably handled their pressure better.”
Shana Sorrels scored 13 to lead three Longhorns in double figures, while Brooke Rachor had 11 and Kippi Webb 10.