By SHAWN YORKS
• Leader & Times
KISMET — Another Friday night, another win for the Southwestern Heights Lady Mustangs. But this Friday night and this win had special meaning to Lady Mustangs head coach Barry Mellen.
The win was Mellen’s 600th coaching win in a career that spans 30 years.
“I think coaches get too much credit,” Mellen said after Friday’s win. “The players, they make it happen.”
Mellen began his coaching career as the boys coach at Dighton in 1980. He became the head girls coach the next year, and spent four years in Dighton before arriving at Southwestern Heights High School in 1985.
Mellen’s Lady Mustangs teams have won two state championships.
“Over the years, we’ve had tremendous, tremendous players,” Mellen said. “A lot of times, I’m doing what everyone else in the stands is doing, I’m just sitting back and watching them play.”
The accomplishment is even more impressive when one considers Kansas only allows 26 games per season.
“It’s a tremendous honor for my players because they earned that,” Mellen said.
Before Mellen could get win No. 600, his Lady Mustangs had to get past Elkhart — one of only two teams to beat Heights this season.
And after a slow start, the ladies dominated the Lady Wildcats to win it 68-38.
“Our defense really stepped up,” Mellen said. “We made them have some turnovers.”
The offense responded, turning a slim 2-point lead into a 12-point halftime advantage. Heights (15-2) increased that lead to 20 points entering the fourth quarter as Sheree Ryan exploded for 29 points.
Heidi Brown had the task of defending Elkhart’s Payton Fleming, who will take her services to Seward County Community College next season.
“Heidi and her defense did a good job on Payton,” Mellen said. “Payton’s one of the best players in Kansas. She’s just a strong, good athlete. We had to almost double-team her every time.”
Elkhart’s Lacy Bookstore gave the Lady Cats a quick 2-0 lead before Chloe Coats answered for Southwestern Heights to tie it. Heights got a stop and Ryan got the first of her 29 points to give the Lady Mustangs a 4-2 lead.
Kali Hoskinson tied it for Elkhart, but a basket and free throw by Rebi Jacobs pulled Heights out to a 7-4 lead. After a Rachel Stout free throw made it 8-4, Elkhart rallied back to tie it behind Areceli Gonzales and Victoria Fullerton.
Stout gave Heights the lead at 10-8 to end the first, but Elkhart tied it at 10 early in the second on a hoop by Gonzales.
A couple of inside baskets by Ryan made it 14-10. That’s where the 6-foot junior got most of her points — in the paint.
“Our post game, they were seeing each other well,” Mellen said. “One post would score and the other was in rebounding position. Our post game came alive tonight.”
After a Gonzales basket bade it 16-14, Heights began to assiert its dominance, going on a 10-2 run to pull away.
The Lady Mustangs outscored Elkhart 16-8 in the third after opening the second half on an 11-0 run, and 20-10 in the fourth, half by Ryan.
In addition to Ryan’s 29, Brown and Coats each scored 10, Rebi Jacobs six, Stout five, Jackie Loya four, Tatianna Chandler and Whitney Garinger two apiece.
Gonzales led Alkhart with 10 points, Afton Lutters added nine — all in the second half — and Hoskinson scored eight. Fleming didn’t score at all.
Heights wraps up the regular season Thursday at Cimarron, which lost 50-48 to Thomas More Prep on Friday night.
Sub-state pairings will be announced Wednesday, and it is expected Southwestern Heights will be the No. 1 seed and will host a first round playoff game.
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