Cardington opened their Division IV playoff run in style, scoring the first seven points of their home sectional game with Delaware Christian and never looking back in claiming a 72-48 win.
“That’s exactly how you want it,” said coach Mark DeLaney. “When you have nine guys who contribute on offense and defense, you never know who will make plays. They made the right looks. The last two weeks, we’ve had a lot of conversation about how much fun the game is when you are unselfish.”
Five different players staked the Pirates to a 15-7 lead after eight minutes of action. Trey Brininger and Nate Hickman hit back-to-back baskets to open the game and Avery Harper added three free throws in four tries to make it a 7-0 score. After Conner Beck got DC on the board, Hickman scored again and Mason White drained a three-pointer to give Cardington a 12-2 lead.
Five straight points by the Eagles brought them back within five, but a basket and free throw by Zach Lester made it an eight-point game after eight minutes.
Cardington would blow the game open in the second quarter. While Nathan Stewart had six points for DC, the rest of the team only was able to tally one free throw. Meanwhile, the Pirates scored 19 behind another unselfish effort. White hit a pair of three-pointers, while both Brininger and Harper scored four points in the quarter and Gabe McConnell also hit from long range.
“We wanted to take everyone else away,” said DeLaney of his team’s defense, which focused on not leting other players beside Stewart hurt them. “We figured #4 (Stewart) was athletic enough to make some shots.”
With the score 39-22 after the Eagles opened the third quarter on an 8-4 run, Cardington got back to work widening their lead. Five straight points by Harper was followed by a four-point play. Hickman scored and was fouled on the play. While he missed his free throw, Brininger snared the rebound and quickly put two more points on the board. On the team’s next possession, he was fouled and hit one free throw to give his team a 49-22 lead with 3:30 left in the third.
The team would hold at least a 20-point lead for almost all the remainder of the game. An 8-0 run by Delaware Christian in the fourth quarter got them within a 64-46 margin, but Cardington finished the game with an 8-2 run to finish on top by 24.
Both Brininger and Hickman scored 18 for the Pirates, while Harper tallied 15 and White scored nine in a game that saw eight Cardington players light up the scoreboard.
The team will next play Berne Union on Tuesday in a rematch of Cardington’s final game of the 2019-20 season. The Pirates led 15-10 after eight minutes of play, but watched Brock Unger score 37 points to lead his team to a 64-44 decision that knocked Cardington out of the postseason.
“I know the boys still remember that and know what’s at stake and how that felt last year,” said DeLaney.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS