Saturday was a big night for the Mount Gilead girls’ basketball team.
Not only did they get past Cardington with a win for the first time in years in toppling the Pirates by a 53-33 count, but also claimed sole possession of the KMAC lead. Both the Indians and Pirates entered Saturday night with 6-0 records in league play.
“It’s about ending the streak,” said head coach Nick Vukovich. “It’s been about 10 years and we finally got it, so we’re extremely happy for our kids. We have two goals. The first goal is to protect our house, so we want to be undefeated at home. The other one is to go undefeated in the KMAC. We’re holding good, but the second half is going to be tough.”
The Pirates were able to keep the game close in the early going, but shot themselves in the foot with turnovers.
“We tried a new offense we’ve been running,” said coach Kevin Fitzpatrick. “It takes a lot of patience and our girls, they’re not patient. They just want to go, go, go. If you ask Rick Green, we had 17 turnovers in the first half and you can’t give up 17 possessions. I thought we defended well, but when you can’t score, you can’t score. We’ve had trouble scoring all year.”
Cardington led early in the game when a Lydia Hess three-pointer staked them to a 3-2 advantage. However, Mount Gilead would come back and get a three from Candace Millisor to move in front 5-3 and the team never looked back.
The Indians were able to forge ahead by a 13-9 margin after the opening period and then started the second quarter with a 10-2 run. Madilyn Elson tallied five points, while Faith White hit from three and Millisor added a basket.
Baskets by Hess and Abby Hardwick were able to cut the Indian lead from 23-11 to 23-15, but a late score before the half by Aubrey Thomas gave MG a 10-point lead going into the break.
They would then pull away in the third quarter, holding Cardington to a pair of Madison Caulkins’ baskets over those eight minutes.
“All year long, it’s been our defense,” said Vukovich. “We decided to put that press in and we’re still working on it. It’s not where it needs to be. What we talked about is don’t foul and get deflections. Deflections lead to steals that lead to lay-ups, so that’s what we wanted to work on.”
Fitzgerald felt that, along with their defense, Mount Gilead did a very good job of converting on their offensive opportunities. In the third, the Indians got three-pointers by both White and Elson, who scored seven of the team’s 14 points in that quarter.
“I don’t know what they shot from the field, but it had to be pretty good,” said the Pirate coach. “They made threes. They haven’t made those threes all year, but they made them tonight.”
Cardington picked things up offensively in the fourth quarter, getting five points from Magi Hallabrin and three each from Hess and Samantha Miller-Spires in scoring 14 points over those eight minutes. Unfortunately for the Pirates, their opponents were able to keep pace over that time and maintained their 20-point advantage.
“When you turn it over 30 times a game — and we’re having 20-some turnovers a game — you’re not getting many opportunities to get shots,” said Fitzpatrick. “We move the ball and we get shots. They might not have all gone in, but at least we had the opportunity. But when you give the ball away that many times, those are times you don’t get to shoot it. We’re still trying to figure out who we are and that’s true. We don’t know who we are, still.”
Hess tallied 11 points to lead Cardington. For Mount Gilead, Elson scored a game-high 18, White connected on three three-pointers and tallied 15 and Millisor contributed 10. Vukovich feels his team is rounding into form.
“We haven’t peaked yet, but we’re getting there,” he said. “We’re almost there. We’ve got a couple things to work on. Once we get that, we’re going to be pretty darn good for the rest of the year. Our kids do a great job of believing in what we’re doing. They understand we can give them a basket or two baskets back-to-back and then we really have to clamp down and that’s exactly what they did.”