Cardington’s girls’ basketball season ended Friday night, as the 21-4 Pirates could not overcome a nightmarish first half in falling 42-34 to Amanda-Clearcreek in the Division III district semifinals.
In the contest, hosted by Ohio Dominican University, the Pirates were held to only four points in the first quarter and three in the second to find themselves in a 24-7 hole halfway through the game.
“They came out in the first and they hit shots and took our energy level,” said Cardington coach Jamie Edwards. “I’ve never seen it empty like that. If you said we only scored seven points in a quarter, I wouldn’t believe it.”
The Pirates were looking for revenge against Amanda-Clearcreek, who had topped them 56-55 last year in the district semifinals behind a 35-point game by Alyssa Evans. While Cardington kept Evans, now a senior, in check offensively for much of the game, she was able to distribute the ball to teammates who were able to take advantage of their opportunities.
Kilynn Guiler opened the game’s scoring with a three-pointer. After Hannah Wickline got the Pirates on the board with a put-back, the Aces got a basket from Katelyn Connell and a three from Gracie Hyme to lead 8-2. Evans scored her first points to make it an eight-point game, but the Pirates closed the period with a basket from Casey Bertke to trail 10-4 after eight minutes.
Edwards noted that Evans’ ball-handling skills played a big role in his team not being as proficient as usual in converting turnovers into easy scoring opportunities.
“I think they came out and hit three or four in a row,” he said. “Normally we respond, but Evans is good enough to keep the ball out of our hands.”
In the second quarter, A-C found Connell repeatedly for back-door cuts and Evans finished the half with a long three-pointer to put Cardington in a 17-point hole at the game’s midway point.
Two more baskets by Connell boosted that lead to a 28-9 margin two minutes into the third, but Cardington would rally to get within 11 going into the fourth. Bertke, Wickline and Kynlee Edwards all scored four points for the Pirates in the period as they fought back within striking distance.
Coach Edwards said that his offense did a lot better job of controlling the ball in the second half, but wasn’t able to make enough shots to dig their way out of that hole.
“They came out and picked it up,” he said of his team. “We limited our turnovers in the second half, but shots have to fall.”
Cardington was able to gradually cut into the Ace lead in the fourth, but the clock was working against them. Seven points by Bertke, as well as two each from Wickline and Edwards, got the team within a 36-30 margin, but there was only 1:13 left on the clock by that point. Evans missed the front end of a one-and-one, but the Pirates were unable to convert on a three-pointer that would have made it a one-possession game.
From there, Evans held the ball, drew fouls and hit six-of-six free throws in the final minute to allow the Aces to hold on for the win. The Ace senior finished with 19 points, 12 of which came in the fourth quarter and constituted all her team’s offense in that period.
For Cardington, Bertke led the team with 19 points and Wickline added eight. Coach Edwards said that he’ll miss his senior class, which finished with 84 wins over their four years. While he noted he’ll be able to keep up with his daughter, Kynlee, as well as Paige Clinger and Taylor Reppart, as they play basketball in college, he’ll miss their contributions on the court and particularly miss being able to coach the oldest of his daughters.
“I’ve never coached a game without this kid as my point guard,” he said. “We’ve averaged 20 wins a year with her running the show. I’ll get to watch her the next four years at Findlay. I told her I’m excited about the future and that her journey has just started.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS