The No. 2-ranked Melba girls basketball team was handed its worst defeat in four seasons, 50-34, falling to No. 1 Soda Springs in the 2A state championship game at the Ford Idaho Center. “To be back and go further than last year when no one thought we would means everything,” senior Mary Ellen Cossel said. “We all love each other. We’re all good friends, so whether we get the win or lose, we hold our heads up high.” Melba (24-2) lost six players, including Kori Pentzer, who now plays for Weber State, from last year’s third-place state team. But the Mustangs had another memorable season anyway. They won their straight Western Idaho Conference and District III title to enter Saturday’s championship bout on a 22-game winning streak. The winning streak was the third best in the state. The opponent staring back across from the Mustags was the unbeaten and unquestioned wire-to-wire top team in the state, Soda Springs. The Cardinals (27-0) came into the game with the state’s longest winning streak at 52. The Mustangs kept it close — for a quarter. After a 7-0 run by the Cardinals put them ahead 8-2 with four minutes left in the first, Melba quickly rallied back. The Mustangs used an 8-0 run, which was capped by another pair of free throws from Kate Clark, to go up 10-8 with 2:35 remaining in the opening quarter. But then Melba went ice cold. The Mustangs missed 20 shots in a row and their only points of the second quarter came on 3-pointer by Jordan Dayley with eight seconds left in the half. They finished the first half 3 of 27 (11.1 percent) from the field. Melba, at one point, had a stretch where it missed 2 of 27 shots. The Mustangs finished 13 of 55 (23.6 percent) for the game. “The shots just fell short,” senior Emma Clark said. “We just weren’t executing and that’s on me too. I don’t think we were confident. We didn’t think we were going to win and didn’t think it was going to work out.” Reagan Yamauchi led Soda Springs with 15 points. Dani Smith added 11 points, while Sadie Gronning chipped in with 10 points and seven rebounds for the Cardinals, who won their second consecutive title. Emma Clark, meanwhile, ended her prolific career with just seven. She, along with the rest of the starters, were subbed out with about 27 seconds remaining. Clark was the first one off the court. After taking her seat on the bench, she consoled her sister Kate Clark by putting her head against hers as the final seconds ticked down. Kate Clark recorded a team-high 12 points with four rebounds for the Mustangs, who weren’t supposed to win or even be there in the first place. Emma Clark leaves the program as a four-year starter and the record holder in career points, steals and assists. She is part of a senior class that went 48-3 and won every state trophy but the coveted blue one. “She meant everything,” Melba coach David Lenz said while trying to hold back tears. “She is just a great kid who works hard and I’m just going to miss her.”

The No. 2-ranked Melba girls basketball team was handed its worst defeat in four seasons, 50-34, falling to No. 1 Soda Springs in the 2A state championship game at the Ford Idaho Center.

“To be back and go further than last year when no one thought we would means everything,” senior Mary Ellen Cossel said. “We all love each other. We’re all good friends, so whether we get the win or lose, we hold our heads up high.”

Melba (24-2) lost six players, including Kori Pentzer, who now plays for Weber State, from last year’s third-place state team. But the Mustangs had another memorable season anyway.

They won their straight Western Idaho Conference and District III title to enter Saturday’s championship bout on a 22-game winning streak. The winning streak was the third best in the state.

The opponent staring back across from the Mustags was the unbeaten and unquestioned wire-to-wire top team in the state, Soda Springs. The Cardinals (27-0) came into the game with the state’s longest winning streak at 52.

The Mustangs kept it close — for a quarter. After a 7-0 run by the Cardinals put them ahead 8-2 with four minutes left in the first, Melba quickly rallied back. The Mustangs used an 8-0 run, which was capped by another pair of free throws from Kate Clark, to go up 10-8 with 2:35 remaining in the opening quarter.

But then Melba went ice cold. The Mustangs missed 20 shots in a row and their only points of the second quarter came on 3-pointer by Jordan Dayley with eight seconds left in the half.

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They finished the first half 3 of 27 (11.1 percent) from the field. Melba, at one point, had a stretch where it missed 2 of 27 shots.

The Mustangs finished 13 of 55 (23.6 percent) for the game.

“The shots just fell short,” senior Emma Clark said. “We just weren’t executing and that’s on me too. I don’t think we were confident. We didn’t think we were going to win and didn’t think it was going to work out.”

Reagan Yamauchi led Soda Springs with 15 points. Dani Smith added 11 points, while Sadie Gronning chipped in with 10 points and seven rebounds for the Cardinals, who won their second consecutive title.

Emma Clark, meanwhile, ended her prolific career with just seven. She, along with the rest of the starters, were subbed out with about 27 seconds remaining. Clark was the first one off the court. After taking her seat on the bench, she consoled her sister Kate Clark by putting her head against hers as the final seconds ticked down.

Kate Clark recorded a team-high 12 points with four rebounds for the Mustangs, who weren’t supposed to win or even be there in the first place.

Emma Clark leaves the program as a four-year starter and the record holder in career points, steals and assists. She is part of a senior class that went 48-3 and won every state trophy but the coveted blue one.

“She meant everything,” Melba coach David Lenz said while trying to hold back tears. “She is just a great kid who works hard and I’m just going to miss her.”

Brandon Walton covers Ada County and College of Idaho sports for the Idaho Press.

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