By Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun
Destini Lunsford had tears in her eyes.
That’s the way it is when good teams lose close games. The kids hurt. They feel it deep and they don’t like it. Some scream. Some shout. Some cry.
But all good teams hate to lose.
That’s what’s going on at Corsicana High, where suddenly the girls basketball team is not only good, but real good. After a long history of struggling on the court this year’s Lady Tigers are putting it to the other guys, running and gunning and sending a message about how far the program has come and giving a hint of where it’s going.
That’s why Lunsford, a talented and tough sophomore, had tears on Saturday after Corsicana lost in the championship game of the Jane Biltz Tournament to Crowley, 51-47.
It was the first loss of the season for the Lady Tigers, who not only ripped off a 6-0 start before running into Crowley, but won five games in the three-day Biltz Tournament, including three romps in which Corsicana won by 50 or more points. That’s no misprint -- 50 or more. And two of those wins were by more than 60 points.
“I think people have been missing out on a real good girls basketball team,’’ said Corsicana Coach Art Prevost, who all but predicted this year’s team would make giant strides. “I’m excited. I‘m mainly excited about the future.”
That’s because Prevost knows the future is now.
The Lady Tigers would be 7-0 right now if a couple of shots in the final minute hadn’t rimmed out or if the game had been a couple of minutes longer. Prevost’s kids fell behind early and then simply out-played the bigger kids from the bigger school for most of the game, and were storming back in the final minute before losing.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Erica Melendez, who had one of those games. You know the kind -- the kind when you play your heart out and step up and play big and yet just fall short. That was Melendez, a hustling and savvy inside player who had to battle Crowley’s 6-2 Bailey Broadnax, who led the Lady Eagles with 15 points and nine rebounds.
But just look at the smaller, never-quit Melendez, who scored 11 points and hustled and fought her way to a 13-rebound game. Not a bad double-double, and against Crowley it looked even bigger and better -- because it was.
Corsicana’s whiz kid, point guard Calae Wilson, was spectacular at times and always in control, running the floor and the team all afternoon before finishing with 16 points.
She had a monster three days at the tournament that came on the heels of her becoming the first girls basketball player to sign with a Division I school on Wednesday when she inked a letter of intent to go to Nicholls State.
They call Wilson “A.I.” and the name fits. She’s all-basketball, all the time and almost pulled off the comeback with two steals in the final minute. Her 3-pointer with 2:39 left cut Crowley’s lead to just four points, 49-45, and she made a steal and a drive to keep it at 51-47 with 25 seconds left. But Corsicana had two shots jump in and out of the basket in the final seconds and that was the difference.
Still, it was a tremendous comeback.
Crowley led 25-10 early when De’Janaie Graves hit a 3-pointer early in the second quarter. But Melendez hit an inside shot and Lunsford hit an outside jumper to start the comeback. Crowley, which went 4-of-6 on 3-pointers just hung on to win the Biltz title.
“I’m really proud of the way my kids came back,” Prevost said. “We played extremely hard. You lose to a 5A team that’s been in the playoffs every year, but we came back.
“I’m so proud of everyone, and I’m proud that we brought home some hardware for the first time in the five years of this tournament,’’ he said of the large trophy Corsicana won.
There were 14 schools in the tournament from as far away as Midland Lee, but none that wanted to the title as much as the home team.
“My kids played with passion. We played with effort,’’ said Prevost, who is all about passion. “I like for them to play with the same passion that I coach with. Their passion equals the way I coach.’’
Lunsford finished with seven points, four rebounds and three assists -- including a beauty to Kennady Betts to start the fourth quarter. Betts hit a 3 and scored six of her eight points in the fourth and Ariel Bartee chipped in with four points.
But the point that counts in this game is the way Corsicana came back against a bigger team.
“I knew we would come back,’’ Melendez said. “There was never a doubt (even when we were down 25-10) that we would come back. There was never any doubt about it.”