Cardington’s most successful girls’ basketball season in program history came to an end in the regional semifinals on Wednesday at the hands of Berlin Hiland.
In the Division III contest hosted by Logan, the Hawks connected on 14 three-pointers and utilized a strong pressure defense to force many Pirate turnovers in running away with a 69-31 decision that concluded Cardington’s season with a 24-2 record.
“They’re number one for a reason,” said Pirate coach Jamie Edwards. “We saw them this summer and knew they’re the best team in the state. It’ll come down to them and Africentric.”
Hiland opened the game with back-to-back three-pointers by Brynn Mullet, but Cardington battled back with two free throws by Casey Bertke and a basket and free throw from Hannah Wickline to get within one at 6-5. Kyli Horn connected from long range for the Hawks, but a Wickline basket made it 9-7 with 2:44 left in the opening period.
Hiland would put up 12 points over that time period, though. While Bertke scored twice from the field, her team still trailed 21-11 after the opening period.
Hiland coach Dave Schlabach gave credit to his team’s defense for allowing them to extend their lead quickly.
“I think it was 6-5 for about two-and-a-half minutes and then I looked up and it’s a 20-point game,” he said. “I’m really happy with our pressure. We had to adjust to a couple really good big kids, but I’m pleased with our guard pressure.”
The coach was also happy with his shooting, noting that his team struggled from three-point range in their district final game and, if they weren’t hitting from deep, Cardington’s zone defense could have given them a lot of trouble.
“The thing that concerned me the most was their 1-3-1 because they’re long,” he said. “You either have to score off three-pointers or pressure.”
Edwards watched that district final game and had seen their struggles from long range, but noted that the Hawks put in enough work to make it possible for them to get hot quickly.
“We scouted them last week and they couldn’t hit a three,” he said. “But they have gym access any time of the year up there and they put in the time.”
After hitting five three-pointers in the first quarter, Hiland added five more in the second. Baskets by Wickline and Bertke, who combined for 25 of their team’s 31 points, kept the Pirates within a 28-15 margin at the 5:55 mark, but the Hawks responded with three straight three-pointers and finished the half on a 16-2 run to lead 44-17 at the intermission.
They would then open the third quarter with back-to-back threes from Yoder and Mullet. Cardington got six points from Bertke and a three-pointer from Beth Hardwick in the period, but Hiland continued to widen their lead until they held a 62-26 advantage going into the fourth quarter, which was played with a running clock.
Cardington’s two seniors led them in the contest, as Bertke scored 16 points and Wickline added nine. With those two post players graduating, Edwards will have a different look for next year’s team, which will revolve around its guard play.
“We have two great seniors with 86 career wins,” he said. “We’re going to miss them. We’re going to get into the gym and work on ball-handling and shooting and getting in peoples’ faces.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS