The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Melrose cruises in season openers


December 9, 2018

Jamie Cushman

Melrose sophomore Adrian Gonzales' tight defense on the Capital ball handler draws a blocking foul in the early minutes of the Buffaloes' 70-34 win on Thursday at Melrose High School.

MELROSE - Finally, the Melrose basketball teams' journey has begun.

Melrose's girls and boys, two teams with state title aspirations, hope Thursday's season openers were the first step along a path toward the ultimate late-winter prize - a blue trophy.

The Melrose boys captured one last March; the Melrose girls were state finalists and took home a red. Thursday, each began new seasons with a fury - the boys opened their title defense with a 70-34 rout of Cliff, shortly after the girls blasted Capitan 62-21 at the Melrose High School gym.

And with those victories, Melrose's 2018-19 season was officially underway.

"It feels great," Melrose girls coach Caleb King said. "We're always looking forward to basketball season coming around, so once we get rolling it's always fun. We look forward to it every year."

"It was good. I thought the guys came out with a lot of energy," Melrose boys coach Kevin Lackey said. "We've got plenty of things that we can work on to get better. It's a gradual climb as far as where we want to go, just building as we go and trying to peak at the right time."

"It was really fun for me because basketball, it's one of my favorite sports, I love playing it," Melrose junior guard Nataley Mondragon said after scoring 22 points, the highest of any player in either of Thursday's games. "Playing with my teammates and playing as a team is just a good thing."

"It's pretty exciting overall. It was exciting to come out here with the whole team, knowing that we have to pick up the slack from last year for those five seniors who left," Buffaloes sophomore post Tate Sorgen said after tossing in 20 points, the boys game-high. "It was just exciting coming out with this first win."

Ladies first

The teams' dominance began right from the girls' opening tip, won by Melrose. It did take a little while - 45 seconds into the game - for Melrose to score, and when the time came, sophomore forward Hailey Martin did the honors by going off glass to give the Lady Buffaloes a 2-0 lead. She was fouled on the play and hit the ensuing free throw to make it 3-0.

Another successful basket-and-foul completion, this one by Mondragon, doubled Melrose's lead to 6-0. And soon afterward, Martin canned a pair of free throws to put the Lady Buffs ahead by eight.

After Capitan's Destanie Magnone and Mondragon exchanged treys, the Melrose lead by was eight again, this time 11-3. And that was pretty much the tone of the first quarter, which ended with Melrose leading 18-5.

Capitan's Courtney Baxter and Mondragon opened the second quarter by each going 1-of-2 from the line, and Magnone followed with a three that brought the Lady Tigers within 19-9.

Melrose, however, then embarked on an 11-0 run to break the game wide open. Shannon May began the surge with a two-point field goal, and Mondragon then poured in seven straight points by scoring on three baskets in three different ways - a left-elbow trey, a short pull-up jumper, and a layup - to make it 28-9.

Ashlynn Hill completed the run with an inside bucket, giving Melrose a commanding 30-9 lead.

It was 32-10 by halftime, and Melrose stretched to a 53-18 lead by the third quarter's end, before going on for the 41-point difference.

"It was nice to build a big lead and kinda make it a little stress-free," King said. "But we made so many mistakes; we always make a lot of mistakes in our first game. We've just got to fix those."

"We take every game one game at a time," Mondragon said, "and then each game we learn from our mistakes. And fixing our mistakes makes us better and better."

Stampede continues

The fun then rolled on for Melrose basketball fans when the boys game against Cliff followed.

In fact, Melrose scored the game's first nine points and 22 of the first 24. Fittingly, junior guard Tristan Sena - one of the few holdovers from last season's championship team - scored the boys team's first points of this season with a layup. Sorgen scored five points in the opening 9-0 surge, junior forward Chazz McAlister the other two.

Jamie Cushman

Melrose junior Nataley Mondragon drives past a Capitan defender for a layup during the early minutes of the Buffaloes' 62-21 win on Thursday at Melrose High School.

Of the Buffaloes' 22-2 opening run, Sorgen scored eight points, Sena six, Vincent Hinojosa and Dylan Valentine three each, and McAllister two.

Cliff did stage a 10-2 run, clipping the difference to 24-12 by early in the second quarter. But Melrose soon grabbed control again, as Sena punched one off glass to stop the Cowboys' run and begin a 20-6 Melrose surge that put the Buffaloes ahead 44-18. The Buffs led 49-23 by halftime, then 61-25 by the end of the third quarter after dominating the period 12-2. They were well on their way to a decisive opening-night victory.

"It felt great," Sorgen said. "Everybody was doing well, moving the ball, scoring, finishing. It was just great."

"We're a young team," Lacey said. "I've got quite a few sophomores and juniors here, so we're just trying to build. And I think we'll be a lot better by the end of the year than we are right now."


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