The Cardington Pirates nearly were able to battle back from a deficit that was as large as 16 points when they hosted Berne Union in a Division IV district semifinal boys’ basketball game Tuesday night, but couldn’t quite get over the hump in falling 65-59.
“Early on, we got into some foul trouble and that made us change what we were trying to do defensively,” said head coach Mark DeLaney. “These boys fought hard to come back. We made some changes with foul trouble and with that in their head, that’s tough to do, but they kept answering, so I give them credit for that.”
The Pirates were able to hold a lead for most of the first quarter thanks to the hot hand of Trey Brininger. The senior scored eight points in the opening frame to help his team hold a 12-9 advantage with 90 second left in the stanza, but the Rockets would surge in front in the final minute.
Both Brock Unger and Brea Friesner tallied three points each to give their team a 15-12 lead after eight minutes. Berne Union would then dominate the early stages of the second quarter. Five points by Friesner and three more from Unger led their team on a 14-2 run to open the period.
Trailing 29-14 with 3:51 left in the half, the Pirates were able to get four points by Nate Hickman and a three-pointer from Zack Lester, but still were behind 36-22 going into the intermission.
Cardington got five points from Avery Harper and four from Brininger in the third quarter, but could only trim two points off the Rocket lead.
In a 48-36 hole entering the fourth quarter, the Pirates were able to rally back, though. Harper opened the period with a three-pointer. After a Friesner basket, the team got eight straight points — four each by Harper and Brininger — to get within a 50-47 score with 4:25 left on the clock.
Unfortunately for the team, they would go 2:35 before lighting up the scoreboard again, allowing Berne Union to extend their lead back to 10 points at 57-47.
“We had some turnovers that hurt us at the end of the game and some missed bunnies and missed free throws,” said DeLaney. “You can’t do that in tournament time.”
Two three-pointers by Lester and one from Harper got the Pirates back into the game at 60-56 and after two free throws by Unger, Harper hit again from long range to make it a 62-59 score with 18 seconds left. However, Unger would hit from the field and draw a foul with nine seconds left. He’d connect on his free throw to give his team a 65-59 advantage and that would be how the game ended.
Harper hit four three-pointers in leading the team with 20 points, 18 of which came in the second half. Brininger tallied 19, while Lester connected on three three-pointers for nine points and Hickman had eight.
In his first year as Cardington’s head coach, DeLaney led the team to a 17-win season.
“It wasn’t easy at the beginning,” he said. “It was their third coach in four years and you have to earn their respect. They’re going to challenge your mind, your knowledge and your work ethic and you have to meet and exceed that. After you figure that out, then you have to get them to gel. They’ve been coming together as a team and playing unselfish, playing for your brother and playing for your team.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS