A late Northmor rally was thwarted by visiting Cardington on Tuesday, as the Pirates held on for a 54-50 win over the Knights.
Northmor’s offense could not get on track in the first half, as they only scored 13 points over the first 16 minutes and trailed 26-13. Cardington opened the game with a three-pointer from Garrett Wagner and then got seven points from Devin Pearl in the first quarter, as the team took a 14-8 lead after eight minutes.
Skyler Bowling opened the second quarter with a basket and Tyler Kegley responded for the Knights at the 7:27 mark. However, the Knights would not score for over five minutes, as Cardington opened up a 21-10 lead.
A free throw from Frank Keller and basket from Gunnar Lilly brought Northmor within eight points, but Pearl scored five points to finish the half with the Pirates up by 13.
“We were pushing the pall and we got the ball to the guys we needed to get it to,” said Pirate head coach Rod Brown. “Guys stepped up and made shots and all the things we talked about needing to do, we did.”
Northmor coach Zach Ruth noted that a lot of things didn’t go well in the first half, as his team had too many turnovers and too many missed shots.
“We were walking to try to get open, we weren’t trying to run our offense and our defense was awful,” he said. “There were no major adjustments (at halftime) other than to challenge them. I challenged them at halftime tonight and that’s the first time we’ve been down double digits and they responded.”
It didn’t take long for that response to happen. Northmor opened the third quarter by getting a basket from Zach Parrott and a three-pointer from Brock Pletcher to get within eight points. The game would stay close to that margin for the remainder of the period, with the Pirates holding a 36-28 lead with eight minutes to go in the contest.
After Trey Williams hit a basket for Cardington to open the fourth, the Knights got a three-pointer and two-point shot from Demetrius Johnson and a pair of free throws from Pletcher to get within a 38-35 score. Bowling scored for the Pirates, but Pletcher hit two more shots from the charity stripe and then added a three to tie things at 40-40 with 3:13 remaining.
Unfortunately for the Knights, they would be unable to get over that hump. Back-to-back shots from Williams and Bowling gave Cardington a four-point lead and they would hold an advantage the rest of the way.
“I think the guys were so caught up in how we caught them, they didn’t have enough focus and we made some bone-head mistakes,” said Ruth. “Moving forward, we have to take care of the ball and cherish possessions, but hats off to Cardington for handling the ball well. We fought and fought hard; this is the first time we’ve been down and I challenged them and they responded, now we have to find a way to win it.”
Down the stretch, Cardington got four free throws from Williams and two more from Wagner and also took advantage of a pair of Northmor turnovers in the final half-minute, including a Luke McCarrell steal of an inbounds pass in the final seconds with the Pirates holding a three-point lead.
“That was a big play by Luke,” said Brown. “He picks it off and stays strong with the ball and made one-of-two free throws to make it a two-possession game, which was a relief for me and the boys, too.”
A big reason that was a relief was because the Pirates had previously lost three straight league games by close margins, including a Friday contest with East Knox in which the Bulldogs came from way behind in the fourth quarter. Brown noted his team played with more composure down the stretch against Northmor.
“Against East Knox, we turned the ball over nine times in the fourth,” he said. “Tonight, we caught with strength and squared up, which showed in taking care of the ball when the game got close.”
Cardington got 17 points from Pearl, who hit three three-pointers, while Williams added 10, Wagner had nine and Bowling scored eight. For Northmor, Johnson tallied 17, Pletcher added 12 and Kegley finished with 11.