Cardington got out to a fast start against Worthington Christian in Tuesday’s Division III district semifinal basketball game and fought off a second-half comeback bid to take a 54-40 win.

Even though his team held a 32-12 advantage midway through the third quarter, Pirate coach Jamie Edwards didn’t feel assured of a win against a Warrior squad boasting a Division I college commit in Bridgette Rettstatt.

“Bishop Ready was up seven with two minutes to go (in the sectional finals) and these guys came back and won on a three-pointer at the buzzer,” he said. “They have a Division I commit and she put up 37 against Pleasant, so we knew she’d get hers.”

Rettstatt did finish with 20 points for Worthington Christian, but only mustered two of that total in the first quarter and six in the opening half, as Cardington jumped out to a commanding lead.

The Pirates tallied the first eight points of the game, as Casey Bertke, Kyndall Spires and Kynlee Edwards all hit baskets and Sage Brannon added two free throws. Cardington took a 13-6 lead after the opening quarter and added to it in the second.

Spires opened the period with a free throw and Edwards added a basket to make the score 16-6. Rettstatt connected on back-to-back shots to bring her team within six, but the Pirates finished the period on a 9-0 run to lead 25-10 at the half. Both Paige Clinger and Bertke scored three points during that span to help Cardington take a commanding lead into the break.

A three-pointer from Edwards and two baskets by Bertke boosted that lead to a 20-point margin midway through the third quarter, but the Warriors would start to battle back, getting as close as a 36-25 margin before Cardington ended the period on an Edwards free throw and a Bertke basket to lead by 14 with eight minutes remaining.

Worthington Christian continued to narrow the game in the early stages of the fourth quarter, though, opening the period with a 8-1 run to get within a 40-33 margin.

The Pirates would settle down and get two baskets from Brannon to boost their lead back into double digits, where it’d remain the rest of the game. Cardington would hit 10-of-12 free throws in the final two minutes of the contest to put the Warriors away.

Coach Edwards noted that senior captain Alyson Adams played a big role in his team fighting off Worthington Christian’s comeback attempt.

“Alyson Adams was key in the last minutes,” he said. “She’s our emotional leader and got on them and we were better with her on the floor. They got in our heads a little bit and got up in our grill. Alyson told them, ‘We got this,’ and we listened. She’s our captain for a reason.”

Both Bertke and Spires finished with 13 points, while Edwards tallied 10.

With the win, Cardington moves to the district finals, where they will face perennial powerhouse Africentric for the second-straight year. Coach Edwards hopes that having that prior knowledge of the Nubians will help them with this year’s game, which takes place Friday at Ohio Dominican.

“A lot of that nervousness will be out,” he said, noting that he and his coaching staff have been practicing with the team to simulate Africentric’s pressure. “We’ve been preparing for them in practice. Can we simulate them perfectly? No. We’re good players, but we’re 40-year-old coaches, not 16, 17, 18-year-old ladies who run like deer. Can you ever be fully ready? No, but you can slow the game down, get across half court, break their press and make them sit back on defense.”

Alyson Adams launches a shot for Cardington in their district semifinal win over Worthington Christian Tuesday night. Adams launches a shot for Cardington in their district semifinal win over Worthington Christian Tuesday night. Rob Hamilton | Morrow County Sentinel

Cardington’s Paige Clinger holds the ball in her team’s district win Tuesday.’s Paige Clinger holds the ball in her team’s district win Tuesday. Rob Hamilton | Morrow County Sentinel

By Rob Hamilton

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Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS