Cardington broke open a close game against Worthington Christian with a strong second-quarter performance and was able to hold on for a 51-39 victory over the Warriors despite suffering through a night-long struggle from the free throw line.
The charity stripe was not particularly charitable for Cardington in the Division III district semifinal game hosted by Olentangy Berlin Tuesday, as they only connected on 4-of-20 attempts, but the team’s defense was able to stymie WC for large portions of the game.
“I knew it was bad,” said head coach Jamie Edwards of his team’s performance at the line. “I knew we missed about 10 in a row. As good as we were playing on defense, we wanted to control the side of the floor we could.”
Early in the game, four missed free throws by the Pirates played a role in their opponents jumping out to a 4-0 lead. Paige Clinger got Cardington on the board with a three-pointer with 4:22 left in the period, but the Warriors responded with their own three.
The Pirates took their first lead late in the period. Trailing 10-7, Cardington got a basket from Hannah Wickline to close within one. On their next possession, Dana Bertke hit a basket, drew a foul and converted her opportunity at the line to put her team up by two. While the Warriors were able to tie the game, Cardington was able to finish the quarter with a basket by Casey Bertke to lead 14-12 after eight minutes.
While a Ceci Dalton bucket tied things up early in the second quarter, the game would not be deadlocked for long, as the Pirates quickly went on an 8-0 run. Clinger sparked the scoring burst with a steal she converted into two points. Dana Bertke followed with a outback and both Casey Bertke and Hannah Wickline added scores.
Trailing 22-14, the Warriors got a three from Mianna Hartings to get within five, but a 10-2 Cardington run boosted their lead to double digits. Wickline scored four points during that stretch, while Kynlee Edwards connected from three-point range and Casey Bertke added three. While Worthington Christian finished the half with a basket, they still trailed 32-21 at the intermission.
Coach Edwards said that his team’s defense really started to impact the game when they extended their 1-3-1 zone, resulting in them forcing multiple turnovers on long pass attempts by the Warriors.
“I give credit to my assistants on that one,” he said. “They said we have to extend it. The extension and making them pass long skips was key.”
Throughout the third quarter, WC was able to get back within single digits on three different occasions, but each time they did, Cardington was able to respond, allowing them to hold a 43-31 lead going into the fourth.
A pair of three-pointers by Katherine Weakley closed the deficit to a six-point margin with 5:43 left in regulation, but the Pirates were able to hold on. Casey Bertke hit a pair of baskets and Wickline added two points to increase the team’s margin back to 12 with just under four to go. The Warriors would get a basket by Blessing King with 3:29 left in regulation, but wound not light up the scoreboard again as Cardington preserved the victory.
Coach Edwards hopes that his team’s tough playoff schedule, which has consisted of wins over the eighth and second seeds in the Central District, will help his third-seeded team get over the hump and make it past the Central District finals. In the past three years, his team has fallen in the district final game twice.
“The best advantage of having Africentric in the top bracket is that you won’t play cupcakes,” he said. “I think because we’ve played two teams like Ready and Worthington Christian, that will be a big difference.”
Up next for Cardington is fifth-seeded Amanda-Clearcreek. Edwards and his team have bad memories of the Aces, as they topped the Pirates in a close game in last year’s district semifinal.
“No one’s watched the tape since that loss because we refuse to watch it,” said the coach. “But we might have to pull it out.”
Against the Warriors, Casey Bertke tallied 21 points, while Wickline contributed 12 and Clinger added eight.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS