When Cardington jumped out to a 17-4 lead in the first quarter against visiting Highland, it looked like the game would be a repeat of November’s 67-14 win over the Scots.
Highland had different plans, though, as they battled back and took a two-point lead into the fourth quarter before a strong start to that period gave the Pirates a hard-fought 55-49 decision.
“We got a huge three from Karsyn (Edwards, to open the fourth quarter) and I called a time out switch back to our 1-3-1 zone and I think that worked,” said Cardington coach Jamie Edwards. “Coach (Scott) Hardwick said to the girls, ‘Good teams find a way to win in adverse situations.’”
Highland coach Whitney Levering Smith concurs that defensive switch had an effect in Cardington opening the fourth period with a 10-0 run that turned a two-point deficit into a 47-39 advantage.
“They switched back to a 1-3-1, which we handled in the first half, but had four turnovers in a row,” she said. “That’s what the turning point was in the second half.”
After Edwards opened the quarter with her three-pointer, Cardington followed with buckets from Beth Hardwick, Casey Bertke and Hannah Wickline, as well as a free throw from Edwards. Savannah Fitzpatrick hit a three-pointer to end Highland’s slump with 3:57 left in the game, but the Pirates got scores from Wickline and Edwards to lead 51-42.
Five straight points by Madison Cecil got the Scots within a four-point margin with 1:14 remaining, but Highland would not be able to get any closer as Cardington was able to hold on for the KMAC decision.
Early in the game, it looked like Cardington would run away for their second win over Highland this season. Six points by Dana Bertke and four from Casey Bertke, as well as a three-pointer by Hardwick, staked them to a 17-4 lead with 1:37 left in the opening period. However, Highland would take a 7-2 advantage over that time, including a Kennedy Altizer three to end the period, and only trailed 19-11.
“I called a time out and told them we’re doing the game plan we want and just need to execute,” said Levering-Smith. “They went out then and just did better. We had girls step up when we went on a run. We got in a groove and thought we can do this.”
Edwards added that Altizer’s three-pointer proved to be a big momentum shift in the game.
“We opened great and I thought this would be like the last time,” he said. “I thought the momentum changed when their guard hit a three to end the first.”
The Scots wasted no time in getting back into the game, as Cecil scored five points to help her team open with a 6-0 run and get within a 19-17 score. For the game, Cecil had a game-high 31 points, hitting four three-pointers in the process.
“She was the player of the game,” said Edwards. “Whatever she threw up, it went in.”
Levering Smith was extremely pleased with how her senior guard took over the game.
“Her having 31 was definitely huge — I’m super proud of her,” said the coach. “I wish she’d gotten one more basket because she was two points short of the record for most points in a game.”
Three-pointers by Wickline and Mikayla Linkous helped the Pirates increase their lead to a 27-20 margin, but a Cecil three helped Highland stay close at 28-25 going into the locker room.
Trailing 34-27 early in the third, Highland would get five points from Cecil and a basket by Peyton Carpenter to tie things up at 34. Cardington would get a shot from Casey Bertke and a free throw from Hardwick to regain the lead, but five points by Cecil, including a buzzer-beating three, put Highland up for the first time of the night at 39-37 before the Pirates were able to rally in the fourth.
Cecil’s 31 paced Highland, while Cardington got 19 from Casey Bertke, nine from Wickline and eight each from Dana Bertke and Edwards.
Levering Smith felt her team’s effort this time against Cardington was more representative of what her squad is capable of, saying that a big reason for the lopsided score in the first game was simply bad shooting.
“When we played them the first time around, we just didn’t score,” she said. “We shot 17 percent. We knew we could score — we just didn’t put the ball in the basket.”
For the Pirates, Edwards said the game was evidence that the KMAC is improving as a basketball conference, citing the number of high-caliber players in the area.
“With Casey and (Mount Gilead’s Madison) Fitzpatrick and Cecil, that’s three kids all worthy of being conference player of the year,” he said. “Those are good players and I’m loving the KMAC. You can’t simulate that (kind of game) in practice against the JVs.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS