Africentric’s height advantage proved to be too much for Cardington to overcome when the two teams hooked up for a Friday night district final girls’ basketball game.
The host Pirates fell 58-33 in large part because they had no answer for 6’2 senior Arianna Smith, who finished with 20 points — most coming off offensive rebounds. The Nubians also got 12 points each from Maliyah Johnson (5’11’) and Anyiah Murphy (5’8”).
“Our defense is great — it just can’t stop them from out-leaping us and grabbing rebounds,” said head coach Jamie Edwards.
The Pirate coach also noted that Africentric’s size advantage had a big effect on the Pirate offense, forcing them behind the arc. While the early results were good, with Cardington taking a 9-6 lead five minutes into the game on long-range shots from Kambry Edwards, Dana Bertke and Karsyn Edwards, the team would not be able to maintain that shooting.
“Our strength is our three-point shooting and our threes kept us in it a bit, but then we went cold,” said the coach, whose team finished its season with a 22-1 record.
Over those final minutes of the first period, Africentric scored nine straight points to surge in front by a 15-9 margin. Over the eight minutes of the second period, Cardington got threes from Mikayla Linkous and Beth Hardwick, as well as a free throw by Linkous, but couldn’t generate any other offense.
Meanwhile, Smith scored eight for her team, while Johnson added four more, as the Nubians held a 27-16 advantage going into the intermission. Edwards noted his team was hurt in the first half because of foul trouble. While the team didn’t have many called against them, three of that number were against Bertke, keeping her on the bench for an extended period.
“We battled, but I think having Dana down with fouls hurt us,” he said. “She’s our biggest athlete, she equals their athleticism and she’s on the bench with us.”
Africentric opened up a 33-18 lead early in the third period, but Cardington bounced back with a put-back by Bertke and a three from Linkous to get back within 10.
Africentric got the lead back to a 15-point margin late in the quarter, but a basket by Emilee Artz and two free throws by Kambry Edwards closed the gap to a 40-29 margin with under 10 seconds to play in the third. Unfortunately, a last-second score by Smith boosted their lead to 13 and gave the Nubians momentum going into the fourth.
Africentric then pulled away over the final eight minutes, outscoring Cardington 16-4 to turn a 13-point game into a 25-point win.
Despite the loss, Edwards felt his team has a lot to be proud of, as they were able to boast an undefeated regular season that gave them the ranking of second in the state for Division III.
“We’ve never been higher than sixth,” he said. “We were a little shocked when we saw the two rating in the beginning. It’s bittersweet, but we’re walking out happy. I think we accomplished a lot.”
And with his team returning all five starters and their top player off the bench, Edwards has high hopes they’ll be able to maintain the success the Lady Pirates have had over recent times.
“Eighty-eight percent of the time we’re not in this situation and to keep it going for six years…” he said about Cardington’s winning percentage during his tenure with the team. “I’m not saying we’ll go undefeated next year, but we’ll win a lot of games.”
Linkous scored seven points to lead Cardington.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS