Cardington’s defense clamped down on Highland in the early going and the Pirates didn’t let up in claiming a 49-29 victory.
The host Pirates only gave up two points in the first period. After Beth Hardwick scored three points and Karsyn Edwards added two, the Scots got a pair of free throws at the 4:36 mark from Emma West to cut their deficit to a 5-2 score.
They wouldn’t light up the scoreboard again in that period, though. The Pirates responded with a three-pointer by Edwards. Hardwick followed with a bucket and Edwards then turned a steal into two more. Shots by Dana Bertke and Emalee Artz finished the quarter and staked Cardington to a 16-2 lead.
Making matters tough for the Scots was a Cardington pressure defense that led to 28 steals against a Highland team with an inexperienced backcourt after graduating starting guards Madison Cecil and Brooklyn Baird.
“That was our game plan,” said Pirate coach Jamie Edwards. “And I think that’ll be our game plan most times. With our guards, we’ve got high basketball IQs and they’ll get in their face.”
Highland coach Whitney Levering Smith wasn’t surprised by Cardington’s aggressive on the defensive end.
“We know it’s Cardington and we know they press,” she said. “That’s what they’re going to do — it’s just that our personnel out there has to break it and they didn’t have to last year.”
The Scot coach added that her team’s issues with turnovers prevented them from getting off enough shots to win a game.
“We only got 17 shots off to their 30 and that’s a huge difference,” she said. “Especially if you only shoot 33 percent on those 17 shots.”
While Highland got seven points in the second quarter, with Peyton Carpenter tallying four of that number, they would not be able to tighten up the game. Cardington got six points by Mikayla Linkous to help them go into the locker room with a 26-9 advantage.
A three-pointer by Kambry Edwards opened the third quarter. Coach Edwards noted that, with a smaller team this year after graduating All-Ohio posts Casey Bertke and Hannah Wickline, getting good outside shooting from his players is very beneficial.
“Between Beth, Kambry and Karsyn, those guys can lace it,” he said. “And Dana and Mikayla can shoot it as well.”
The Pirates would increase their lead to as much as a 42-14 margin as both Karsyn Edwards and Hardwick drained threes in the third. Highland would finish the period with back-to-back baskets by Carpenter and West, but still trailed by 24 going into the fourth.
Five points by West and four from Brylinn Tuggle helped the Scots hold an 11-7 scoring advantage in the fourth, but wasn’t enough to get them back into the game. Levering Smith said that after graduating Cecil, Baird and Gena West, her team needs to find a way to replace their offensive output.
“Quite honestly, I knew this would be an issue,” she said. “We have to replace 32-33 points a game by three seniors and that’s huge. Our offense at first, we would be surprised like, ‘I’m open, so I’ll shoot it.’ and that won’t work. We have to be disciplined.”
Highland isn’t the only team making adjustments for the 2020-21 season. With a smaller team this year, the Pirates are doing new things on offense.
“Our biggest adjustment is that we ran a high-low offense my first five years and now all five are out,” he said “We have a lot of rules to follow about our cuts.”
Karsyn Edwards scored 12 points and Linkous tallied 11 to lead Cardington. Hardwick added eight in the contest. For Highland, Emma West tallied nearly half her team’s offense with a game-high 13-point showing.