For nearly three full quarters, the Cardington Lady Pirates held a lead that got as large as 14 points over Johnstown in the Division III district semifinals at Olentangy Berlin Tuesday night.

The fourth quarter was a different story, though, as the Johnnies made a furious comeback that culminated with them scoring the final five points of the game and pulling off a shocking 42-41 win that ended Cardington’s season with a 17-4 record.

“You hate for it to end that way, but it is what it is,” said Pirate coach Jamie Edwards after seeing his team lose in heartbreaking fashion. “We got in foul trouble and we’d been hot from the free throw line until the last two sets.”

Paced by sophomore Abigail Adkins’s nine points and senior Brooke Barb’s pair of three-pointers, the Johnnies were able to turn a 32-20 deficit at the end of the third quarter into a 37-36 advantage with 2:35 left on the clock. The Pirates would regain the lead on a Karsyn Edwards three-pointer. Then, with 45 seconds remaining, the senior guard added a pair of foul shots to make it a four-point game at 41-37.

Johnstown stayed in the game with a Michaela Perfors basket at the 34-second mark. Cardington would miss the front end of a one-and-one on their next possession, which proved costly as Adkins drained a three with 12 seconds remaining to give her team the lead again at 42-41.

Cardington missed another front end after drawing a foul, but Johnstown also couldn’t convert from the line to give the Pirates one more chance with seven seconds left. However, the Johnnies were able to force a jump ball and the possession arrow was in their favor — allowing them to move on to Friday’s district finals.

“They made a good shot — they deserve to move on,” said coach Edwards.

Until Johnstown’s fourth-quarter rally, the Pirates had led nearly the entire game. Adkins opened the night’s scoring with a bucket early in the first quarter and Johnstown held a 2-0 lead until the 4:46 mark, but when Cardington got going, they dominated the rest of the period.

Back-to-back three-pointers by Beth Hardwick and Karsyn Edwards gave the Pirates a 6-2 lead. Then, with the score 6-4, the team got buckets from Mikayla Linkous and Karsyn Edwards and a three from Hardwick to lead 13-4 after eight minutes.

Hardwick helped the team maintain that lead for much of the second quarter, scoring Cardington’s first 10 points of the period. Johnstown would stay within a 23-15 margin with a minute left in the half, but Linkous hit four free throws down the stretch to give the Pirates a 27-15 lead at the intermission.

A bucket by Hardwick to open the third increased that advantage to 14 points, but foul trouble was starting to plague the Pirates. Both Kambry and Karsyn Edwards, as well as Dana Bertke, got in foul trouble — with Bertke eventually fouling out in the fourth quarter — causing coach Edwards to kill time by slowing down the pace of the game.

That strategy worked in the third quarter, as the team still held a 12-point lead when it ended. Unfortunately for Cardington, Johnstown got hot in the fourth quarter and the Pirate lead couldn’t hold up under their onslaught.

Hardwick hit three three-pointers in leading Cardington with 18 points. Linkous scored 11 and Karsyn Edwards finished with 10.

For coach Edwards, the loss marked the end of a seven-year tenure with the Pirates. While disappointed in how it ended for his senior class, he noted that the program has a bright future.

“We’ve got a good young crew coming in as sophomores,” he said. “They’re going to start the next run.”

And the coach only had good things to say about his senior class — Bertke, Hardwick, Linkous, Emalee Artz and Kambry and Karsyn Edwards — and their accomplishments over their four years with the program.

“They only lost nine games in four years and have been state-ranked every year,” he said. “I don’t know how many groups can say they won every league title and were state-ranked.”

He also added that he believes those players will have bright futures, noting that five of them currently have committed to either play basketball or softball at the collegiate level.

“They’ll realize in a couple days that this is just one step in life,” said Edwards. “They’re going to have a lot more important things than a late three-pointer in a basketball game.”

Beth Hardwick led Cardington with an 18-point effort in their Tuesday loss to Johnstown in the Division III district semifinals. Hardwick led Cardington with an 18-point effort in their Tuesday loss to Johnstown in the Division III district semifinals. 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