PARMA — It was the $64,000 question for the Melba girls basketball team.
What would life be like without Emma Clark? The program’s all-time leader in points, assists and steals. If Thursday night was any indication — just fine.
Melba avenged its only loss of the season in a 60-50 nonconference win over 3A perennial power Parma. The Mustangs have now won their last three games.
“It doesn’t matter who’s on this team,” senior guard Kortney Trappett said. “It’s just about everybody knowing their role this year and we showed that tonight.”
The Mustangs (6-1) have had one of the most impressive runs in the state over the last three years. They’ve gone 70-6 (92% winning percentage) and won three consecutive 2A Western Idaho Conference and District III titles. Melba has also taken home a state trophy in each of those seasons. The only one it didn’t win was the state championship.
The Mustangs were the state runners-up last year.
However, that was all with Clark, a four-year starter who is now playing for Northwest Nazarene. And that departure brought about some skepticism about whether or not the Mustangs could keep it all going. They were picked third in the Idaho Press’ WIC preseason coaches poll.
“The girls are playing with a chip on their shoulder,” Melba coach David Lenz said. “But we don’t focus a whole lot on that. Right now, we’re just focusing on playing good basketball and we’re definitely getting there.”
But Clark has a couple of sisters — and they’re pretty good, too.
Kate Clark, a junior, has started and been an All-WIC player the last two years. Newcomer Kendall Clark, has the prototypical size coaches dream about. She is already 5-foot-10.
They combined for 26 points Thursday.
Kate dropped 18 points to go along with four assists, while Kendall added eight points, six rebounds and four steals.
“It’s great to have another sister to play with that’s for sure,” Kate Clark said. “Kendall’s a beast. It’s awesome because she’s the baby of the family. She’s had to watch Emma and I these last couple of years and now it’s her time to shine.”
Trappett was the game’s real star, though.
She recorded a game-high 20 points to go along with five boards and three assists. Thirteen of those points came in the second half alone.
“It feels really good because I’ve been getting in the gym,” Trappett said. “And I know some people have doubted me, but I just go out there and play and have fun.”
Melba looked like the team most thought it would be early on.
The Mustangs committed eight turnovers in the first five minutes of the game and the result was a 13-2 deficit. Yet, they managed to not only get themselves back in the game, but take the lead for good with a pair of runs in the first half.
A 9-2 run to close the first quarter brought Melba to within four at 15-11. Kate Clark then gave the Mustangs the lead for good at 20-19 following a lay-in with six minutes remaining in the half. It was the beginning of a 17-0 run.
Trappett capped it with a corner 3-pointer to put Melba up 32-19 with 2:40 remaining in the first half.
“Oh, that was huge,” Lenz said. “We shared the ball. They threw a couple of different things at us and we handled it really well. We quit turning the ball over, got out of transition and it was really fun to watch.”
The Mustangs appeared like they were going to run away with it after another Trappett 3-pointer increased the lead to 15 at 42-27 with 6:10 to go in the third. But the Panthers (3-2) didn’t go away.
They took full advantage of Melba going 4 of 13 from the field and committing eight turnovers for the rest of the quarter. So the deficit was down to 48-41 by the end of three.
Parma then got the once seemingly insurmountable lead all the way down to two at 50-48 on an Adyson Harris putback with six minutes left in the game following a 7-2 start to the quarter. But that was as close as the Panthers got.
Kate Clark went the length of the floor for a layup just seconds later. Trappett then followed with a lay-in of her own to give the Mustangs some much-needed breathing room at 54-48 with 4:37 remaining. Parma went 1 of 6 from the field the rest of the way.
“I’m not going to say the air goes out of the balloon there, but that was definitely a momentum stopper when we were on a roll,” Parma coach Michael Calkins said. “I think we used up all of our energy after that. But I was proud of the girls for battling back.”
Harris had 14 points and four rebounds for the Panthers, who fell for the second game in a row. Austyn Harris chipped in with 12 points and Megan Hancock added 11 points.
Parma, the 3A state runner-up from last season, hosts Gooding at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in nonconference play.
Melba, meanwhile, opens up league play on the road at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against New Plymouth.
“I think we’re going to be just as good as we were last year,” Kate Clark said. “We’re not really worried about it.”