In a back-and-forth game, Centerburg had one more run than Cardington in picking up a 54-47 decision in a Friday night boys’ basketball contest hosted by the Pirates.
The game was tied at 42 with just under five minutes to go in regulation, but the Trojans were able to finish with a 12-5 run to escape with the win. Cardington coach Mark DeLaney simply felt his team wasn’t successful enough at the fundamentals to hold on for a win.
“We were 5-of-14 from the free throw line,” he said. “They’re a great team. It doesn’t matter what you do offensively or defensively. It comes down to rebounds, free throws and turnovers and I think they won all three.”
In the early going, it looked like the Trojans might quickly blow open the game, as four different players scored in the first six minutes of action to give them a 9-2 lead. However, the Pirate offense woke up as the quarter was ending. Mason White and Nate Hickman scored from the field and Trey Brininger added a free throw, as Cardington closed within an 11-7 margin.
Two buckets by Carter Jones extended that lead to eight early in the second, but Cardington would dictate the action for the rest of the quarter. Connor McIe hit from long range and Hickman added two more points to bring the team within a 15-12 margin.
Three straight Trojan points boosted their lead to six points, but the Pirates then went on a nine-point run with Avery Harper tallying seven. Centerburg tied the game at 21 on a late three-pointer by Levi Houck, but Cardington regained the lead going into the locker room on a second McIe three.
Back-to-back shots by White and Brininger put the Pirates up 28-21 early in the third, but five points by McKinnon Mead and four by Jones would tie the game at 30 with 3:31 left in the quarter. DeLaney felt that Jones really hurt his team, both as a scorer and passer.
“Honestly, it comes down to who Carter Jones is,” he said. “He’ll probably be a three-time Player of the Year in the KMAC. He draws so much attention and is such a great passer and they made big shots. When he can get it and feed a lot, it makes them so much better.”
Back-to-back shots by Hickman gave the Pirates a 34-30 lead, but the Trojans finished the quarter with five straight points to hold a one-point lead going into the fourth.
The Pirates regained the lead on a quarter-opening bucket by Brininger, but four straight points gave the Trojans a three-point lead. Cardington tied things back up at 42 after four points by White and two more from Brininger, but struggled to score the rest of the way.
A three-pointer by Dalton Hall and bucket by Jones made it 47-42. Cardington would battle back to within a one-point margin after Hickman and Brininger hit consecutive shots, but a pair of missed free throws during that run prevented them from going in front.
Unfortunately for the team, those misses would be costly, as Cetnerburg held them to only one point over the final 2:50 of the game. Five points by Mead gave them some breathing room and the Trojans would go on to outlast their hosts.
Cardington got 14 points from Hickman, while White added 10 and Brininger scored nine. While disappointed in the outcome, DeLaney was pleased with his team’s effort and intensity, noting that games like that are great preparation for the tournament.
“This was a tournament type of game,” he said. “I’m glad to have it now to prepare us for March. I’m very proud of our guys.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS