After trailing for most of the game, Cardington was able to rally late against Mount Gilead to preserve their perfect record and conclude their fourth straight undefeated season in KMAC competition.
In the team’s 43-36 victory Saturday, they didn’t take their first lead until Beth Hardwick connected from three-point range with 24 seconds left in the third quarter. However, after they moved in front, they were able to maintain an advantage the rest of the way in improving to 18-0 this season.
“After losing Casey (Bertke) and Hannah (Wickline), a lot thought we’d go .500,” said head coach Jamie Edwards. “We just spent so much time over the offseason on skills and like I said last week, they’re like a family. We just persevered. They’re a good team.”
Indian coach Bob Scott said that his team is getting closer to being at Cardington’s level, but just needs to finish out those close games with tough competition.
“They’re used to winning and playing those games,” he said. “There’s a reason they’re undefeated. We’re getting closer. We’ve played two competitive games with them, but there are no moral victories.”
In the first half, the Indians were the team getting out to a good start. A Candace Millisor three-pointer opened the game and Holly Gompf added a free throw to make it 4-0. While Cardington got baskets from Hardwick, Dana Bertke and Karsyn Edwards in the opening period, Millisor added five more points for MG as they led 10-7 after eight minutes.
Five points by Gompf and four from Madilyn Elson helped the Indians increase their advantage to a 21-12 score with three minutes to go in the half, but the Pirates started to claw back into the game. A basket by Mikayla Linkous and a three-pointer from Kambry Edwards helped them get within a 21-18 score before the Indians ended the half with a bucket to bring their advantage back up to five.
Edwards said that he made some offensive adjustments during the intermission.
“We live and die by the three and we were dying,” he said. “We made some adjustments at the half and tried to get to the rim more.”
After Gompf opened the third with a three-pointer to make the MG lead 26-18, Cardington scored seven straight, getting five straight points by Linkous and two from Bertke to close within one.
“They’re a good shooting team and eventually will make some,” said Scott. “We got tired at the end a bit. We played a great 2.5 quarters, but it wasn’t enough. We have to do a bit better than that.”
A basket by Gompf and a three-pointer by Millisor allowed the Indians to get their lead back up to six at 31-25 with 1:59 to go in the third, but Cardington would score eight straight over those final minutes to take their first lead of the game. Karsyn Edwards hit a three-pointer and Bertke followed with a steal and score. Hardwick then scored from long range to give her team a 33-31 lead going into the fourth.
Another three from Hardwick, followed by a Bertke put-back made it 38-31, but MG got a three from Millisor to get back within four.
That would be as close as they could get down the stretch, though. Leading 40-36 with under a minute to go, the Pirates got two big free throws by Linkous and Karsyn Edwards added a foul shot to provide the team’s final point.
Scott felt that his team needs to do a couple things to get over the hump against a team like Cardington.
“We only had four kids score tonight,” he said. “We need to have some other kids score. We relied a little too much on outside shots. We didn’t do a good job on offense in the last 1.5 quarters. We need to be more patient and get better shots.”
Millisor hit four three-pointers in scoring 14 points, while Gompf finished with 12 for Mount Gilead. Cardington got 12 from Bertke, while both Hardwick and Linkous scored nine.
Edwards was happy with his team’s win, which was their second contest in a stretch where they played three games in four days — two against top-five seeds in the Central District tournament — something he looks as a great rehearsal for the playoffs.
“We only play six kids normally and in tight games have a tight rotation of juniors,” he said. “We’ll give them the day off tomorrow. This was a good tune-up.”