It was a big-time atmosphere at Cardington High School Saturday night when the host Pirates took on Mount Gilead in girls’ basketball.
And in a game featuring the 9-0 Indians taking on 9-1 Cardington in a battle for supremacy at the top of the KMAC, the Pirates’ Casey Bertke put on a big-time performance. In a game where Cardington was without Kambry Edwards, who is out for the season, and Hannah Wickline, who missed the game due to a minor procedure, Bertke had a monster game, tallying 31 points to lead her team past MG by a 48-30 margin.
Head coach Jamie Edwards figured that Bertke would get extra attention from the Indians and prepared for it in the days leading up to the game.
“They knew it and they were doubling her,” he said. “In practice, we had the JVs doubling her every day.”
Mount Gilead coach Bob Scott simply felt his team didn’t have an answer for the Cardington senior.
“Casey Bertke is very good and we knew that,” he said. “She was able to get the ball where she wanted it and we didn’t have an answer for that.”
Cardington jumped out to a big lead in the first quarter. With the score tied at 2-2, the team scored eight in a row. Bertke mustered half of that total, while both Mikayla Linkous and Dana Bertke added one basket each.
Linkous moved into the starting rotation for the game and pleased Edwards with her efforts, particularly on defense.
“I’m super-proud of them,” he said. “We preached next man up and that you’re on varsity for a reason. Mikayla Linkous got her first start and her goal was to be in Madison Fitzpatrick’s pocket all night. I’m really impressed with what she did.”
Edwards was impressed with his team’s overall defensive performance. While Fitzpatrick got her points, finishing with a team-high 19, only three other girls scored in the game, combining for 11 points.
“We did a good job trapping the corner and tried to make them do long skips,” he said. “We knew they’d have to shoot well for it to be a game and we were worried about that.”
However, as Scott said, his team simply couldn’t hit shots with consistency on the night.
“We had to have some other kids score,” he said. “Everyone has a game where kids aren’t making shots and we have that game tonight.”
While Fitzpatrick finished with four first-quarter points, the Indians trailed 14-4 after eight minutes of play and never could recover from that deficit. They would get within a 16-8 score early in the second period, but Cardington tallied nine straight points — seven from Casey Bertke — to go up by 17. While Holly Gompf and Fitzpatrick both scored to give the Indians a bit of momentum going into the half, the score was still 25-12.
And Casey Bertke wouldn’t let the margin get any closer in the third. She would score 12 of the team’s 13 points in that quarter. While Fitzpatrick countered with eight of MG’s 10 points in that period, the Pirates still extended their lead to a 38-22 advantage.
They’d lead by as many as 21 in the fourth quarter on their way to improving to 7-0 in KMAC games to lead the league by one game over the Indians. Scott said that he felt the best way for his team to recover from their first loss of the year is to simply not focus too much on that one night.
“That they don’t dwell on it,” he said. “Get the mindset where this is what we work on. When you lose, it’s pretty tough. If we had won two or three straight and lost, it’d be ‘well, okay’, but when you win nine in a row and are going for 10, it’s tough.”
As for Edwards, he’s hoping to continue seeing that sort of defensive effort, as he was proud of his team for making it tough for Mount Gilead to get good shots off.
“The big thing of the game is that they hit a three at the end, but (other than that), they had no threes,” he said. “They were doing a lot of work to get shots off.”