By BRETT MARSHALL
CIMARRON — After 35 years of coaching high school girls basketball, Barry Mellen was in an emotional tug of war here on Tuesday night.
The veteran Southwestern Heights Lady Mustangs mentor had announced at the outset of this season that it would be his last at the helm of one of the most tradition-steeped programs in Kansas.
He's seen a lot in his 29 seasons at Heights, accumulating 555 wins and two state championships for the program, while amassing 658 career wins over 35 campaigns.
But not even he would have wanted to go out on a note like he did in the Class 3A sub-state quarterfinals against a powerhouse Cimarron Lady Bluejays team that reminded him of some of his previous juggernaut teams.
On his final night of prep coaching, Mellen could only sit and watch helplessly as the Lady 'Jays rolled past his Lady Mustangs 56-26 in the opening round of the sub-state.
And to add insult to retirement injury, the loss finished off a sub-par 9-12 record for Mellen, while the Lady 'Jays improved to 19-2 to set up a semifinal on Friday against Cheney, a 43-33 winner on Tuesday night over Kingman.
The reality of the matchup between the two Hi-Plains League foes was in the opening 2 minutes, 33 seconds when the Lady Bluejays dropped three 3-pointers on the Lady Mustangs to take a 9-0 lead.
And they never looked back. One came from Rebecca Dupree, and the other two from Ashtynn Burns, who scored 12 of her 19 points in the first quarter.
"We really wanted to focus on our rebounding game and to come out and play hard," said Burns, a 5-6 senior guard. "The reason I got open was my teammates were setting such good screens."
A 15-1 first-period advantage expanded into a 34-11 halftime bulge for Cimarron. They had hit 6-of-9 three-pointers, and limited Heights to just one field goal, that by Nayely LaPoint which didn't occur until 2:14 was showing in the second quarter. Only 9-of-12 free throws by Heights got them to double digits.
The lopsided score allowed Cimarron coach David Ediger to empty his bench and rest his regulars for the Friday night semifinals.
"We know it's definitely gonna be a challenge," Burns said of the semifinal game against Cheney, also 19-2. "We are working well together. We're at our best when we're out running the floor. Mr. (Coach) Ediger tells us to just keep working hard and treat the other team with respect."
By the end of the third quarter, Cimarron had extended the lead to 51-22. From there, it was just trying to get to the end of the game unscathed. When Morgan Ediger hit her third 3-pointer at the outset of the final period, the running clock started and that kept the scoring low in the final eight minutes.
"I thought we did a nice job of running our offense, played hard on defense and just tried to play our game," Burns said.
Only a parade to the free-throw line provided the Lady Mustangs with some respectability as they hit 15-of-22 charities, while making just five field goals. Cimarron, meanwhile, had more 3-pointers (10) than they did 2s (9). The Lady 'Jays were 10 of 16 from behind the arc, and finished the game at 50 percent from the field (19 of 38). Heights was a chilly 5 of 27 (18.5 percent). Heights had 19 turnovers to 13 for Cimarron. Cimarron also won the board battle, getting 27 to 22 for the Mustangs. Burns led the way with six boards, while Jackie Loya had nine rebounds to go with her nine points, all coming at the free-throw line. Nayely LaPoint also had nine points for Heights.
Ediger, who was 6-of-9 shooting and 2 of 2 at the line, finished with 17 points. In all, nine Lady 'Jays got into the scoring column.
In addition to the Cimarron win, other first-round winners were Holcomb (67-31) over Chaparral, Cheney's 10-point win over Kingman and Garden Plain 60-34 over Lakin. Holcomb and Garden Plain will tip off at 6 p.m. in Cimarron, with the Lady 'Jays and Cheney matchup immediately following at approximately 7:30. Those four teams are all ranked among the top 10 in Class 3A.
SW Heights 1 10 11 4 -- 26
Cimarron 15 19 17 5 -- 56
SW Heights (9-12) — Amparan 1-2 0-0 2, LaPoint 2-7 4-7 9, DelaTorre 1-2 0-0 2, Baldwin 0-1 0-0 0, Jimenez 0-2 0-0 0, Carrillo 1-1 0-0 2, Loya 0-0 9-10 9, Rush 0-3 2-5 2. Totals 5-27 15-22 26.
Cimarron (19-2) — Dupree 1-5 0-0 3, Burns 5-8 6-7 19, Meis 1-2 0-0 3, Blattner 2-4 1-3 6, Walker 1-1 0-0 3, Hoskinson 1-1 0-0 2, Bryant 0-0 0-1 0, Ediger 6-9 2-2 17, K. Bailon 0-4 2-2 2, White 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 19-38 11-15 56.
3-point goals--SW Heights 1-7 (LaPoint 1-3, Loya 0-4), Cimarron 10-16 (Dupree 1-2, Burns 3-5, Meis 1-1, Blattner 1-2, Walker 1-1, Ediger 3-5). Rebounds--SW Heights 22 (Loya 9), Cimarron 27 (Burns 6). Turnovers--SW Heights 19, Cimarron 13. Fouls--SW Heights 17, Cimarron 19. Fouled out--SW Heights (LaPoint), Cimarron (Hoskinson). Technical fouls--none.