On a night when the Cardington basketball program honored their 1995-96 Division IV Final Four team, the Pirates pulled off an inspiring win over county rival Mount Gilead, coming from 10 behind in the third quarter to take a 63-61 win.
“There was a lot going on tonight,” said head coach Rod Brown, who was a member of that 95-96 team. “It was emotional for me. This reminded me of those old gyms and packed houses and noise and music. It was a great game.”
For most of the early going, it looked like it would be a great for MG as they tried to keep pace with Centerburg in the race for the Blue Division crown. After a pair of Derek Goodman three-pointers staked the Pirates to an early 6-2 lead, the Indians got a basket from Mason Mollohan and two long-range shots by Zack Hosack to jump in front 10-6.
MG held a four-point lead going into the second quarter, but Devin Pearl connected twice to tie the game at 15. However, with the Indians holding a slim 21-20 lead with 3:32 remaining in the half, they were able to finish strongly, scoring seven straight points. Deondre Cook drained a three-pointer and both Austin Vanderkooi and Isaiah Harris added baskets to put their team up 28-20 at intermission.
“When you have this kind of atmosphere and energy, you’re going to have runs,” said Indian coach Tom Cooper. “I didn’t like our energy in the third quarter and think that’s where we lost the game.”
The Indians were able to maintain a sizable lead for the first half of the third, going in front by as much as a 33-23 margin and leading 35-26 at the four-minute mark. However, the final four minutes of the quarter mostly went Cardington’s way.
After Goodman hit a free throw, Skyler Bowling hit two shots from the charity stripe. Goodman followed with a three-pointer and Pearl scored two more to bring Cardington within one. While MG was able to finish the quarter with a bucket from Vanderkooi to take a 37-34 lead into the fourth, the Pirates had new life.
Pearl noted that his team was able to get some quality shooting in this game, as the Pirates hit 10 three-pointers on the night.
“Our ball movement and defense picked up,” he said. “I started hitting shots and Derek especially — all night, he was on.”
They would continue their hot play as the fourth quarter started, getting four points from Luke McCarrell, a three-pointer by Pearl and two more from Goodman off a steal to move in front by a 43-37 margin.
“They put on a good spurt in the third and we didn’t respond until it was too late,” lamented Cooper. “Our success is not about shooting and tonight was an example. We lost for one reason — rebounding — and that’s the bottom line. We have two keys: rebounding and defending without fouling. We had been doing a good job, but didn’t tonight.”
A pair of Pearl three-pointers put the Pirates on top by a 49-41 score with five minutes to play, but the Indians battled back, getting a basket by Tyler Bland and three-pointers from both Cook and Alijah Keen to close within 52-49 with 3:32 left.
Another drought proved costly for MG, though, as Cardington scored six straight over the next two minutes to take a nine-point lead with 90 seconds to go. While the Indians were able to close within two points in the final seconds, they couldn’t completely erase their deficit.
After their win over Northmor Tuesday and this game, Brown feels that as the regular season enters its final weeks, his team is really starting to come together.
“This week has been our best two-game span all year,” he said. “I thought we shot the ball and played good team defense in the second half. After the loss to East Knox last week, I told the kids that it’s a new season. Right now, we’re playing for our (tournament) seed.”
Both teams lit the nets from long range, with MG hitting 12 three-pointers to Cardington’s 10. The Pirates got six threes and 27 points from Goodman, while Pearl added 22 points and hit three more long-range shots. For Mount Gilead, Hosack led the team with 19 points, connecting on five threes. Also, Cook hit three three-pointers for nine, Harris added nine more points and Keen had a pair of threes on his way to scoring eight.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS