Highland was able to use their size advantage over Cardington to good effect Friday night when the visiting Scots claimed a 66-44 win in KMAC action.
While three-point shooting kept the Pirates in the game in the early going, the Scots were able to hold them to single digits in both the second and third periods as they pulled away for the win.
“The last two games in a row, we’ve done a great job of sharing the ball and playing together,” said Highland coach Chris Powell. “I’m proud of the guys. When we play together and with energy, it’s a lot of fun and it makes it easy as a coach.”
In the opening period, the Scots got seven points from Mack Anglin and four from Chase Carpenter, but Trey Brininger, Garrett Wagner and Brandon Steckel all connected from long range for Cardington to keep the score close.
It was 11-10 in favor of the Pirates with just under a minute remaining in the quarter, but a bucket by Carpenter and three-pointer from Anglin staked Highland to a 15-11 lead going into the second period.
Baskets from Daniel Kill and Wagner got Cardington within a 16-15 margin early in the second quarter, but Highland’s defense held them to four points over the final 6:30 of the first half. During that time, the Scots picked up their pace offensively. Seven points by Chris Branham boosted them to a 24-17 lead.
After Wagner hit for Cardington, the Scots finished the half with a flourish, getting three buckets from Kaleb Phillips and one shot from Anglin to lead 32-19 going into the intermission.
“We obviously lack size,” said Pirate coach Rod Brown. “I thought Daniel Kill and Dylan Goodman and Brandon Steckel did the best they could on them, but they’re just bigger guys and they overpowered us. Kaleb Phillips is a really good player and Mack Anglin didn’t hurt us in the paint, but he hurt us driving on us.”
Cardington’s offensive troubles continued in the third quarter. They scored first in the period on a basket by Avery Harper, but then went nearly four minutes without any points. During that time, Anglin scored four points and both Andrew Wheeler and Phillips added baskets to boost Highland’s lead to a 40-21 score.
“We’ve really struggled coming out in the second half and playing hard,” said Brown. “We’ve struggled the last four games with letdowns coming out. We were talking about how we’re extremely young and struggle with consistency.”
For his part, Powell was happy with his team’s play in the second night. After a recent loss at Mount Gilead, he noted his team needed to work on extending early leads and not letting opponents hang around — something he felt his players did against Cardington.
“Again, it’s easy to extend leads when we play together,” he said. “Get guys in the right spots to get good looks. When we’re having fun, we play harder on the defensive end. In the Mount Gilead game, I’m not sure we were having fun. We were too worried about the score.”
The Scots were able to maintain a sizable lead in the fourth quarter, going in front by as many as 28 points as they improved to 13-5 overall and 9-3 in league play. Powell noted that with a lot of tough teams in Division II of the Central District, his team needs to continue playing well heading into the tournament.
“Our district is loaded,” he said. “We have an ongoing list of everyone and what their records are and there are a lot around 12-3 and 15-1. Every coach wants to play their best basketball this time of year.”
Both Anglin and Phillips scored 19 for the Scots, while Cody Holtrey added 10. Cardington got 15 from Wagner, who connected on three three-pointers, while Brininger scored eight.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS