By ROB HAMILTON
Strong outside shooting and a stifling defense boosted the Cardington Lady Pirates to a 70-27 win over visiting Highland on Friday.
In improving to 4-0, 3-0 in league play, Cardington scored the first 10 points of the game and never looked back in picking up the win. Most pleasing to head coach Jamie Edwards was that his squad hit nine three-pointers to break out of a shooting slump.
“We’ve been in a slump at the three-point line,” he said. “I think our percentage was in the teens, so it was nice to have a good game.”
Two of those long-range shots opened the game, as Mikayla Conrad and Summer Morgan both connected from behind the arc. Kyndall Spires then scored from inside and Kynlee Edwards added a pair of foul shots to make the score 10-0.
Highland got a free throw from Kenzie Fuller to get on the board, but the Pirates responded with three straight points from Sage Brannon on their way to taking an 18-6 lead after eight minutes of play.
The Scots (1-3, 1-2) got back-to-back scores from Raven Tilford and Fuller to close within eight, but the Pirates responded with back-to-back-to-back threes, with Morgan, Brannon and Conrad all connecting. Taylor Belcher scored for the Scots, but Cardington then got a three from Alex Maceyko followed by two-point shots from Conrad and Alyson Adams to jump in front 34-12.
Highland coach Whitney Levering noted that turnovers were the key in this game, as her squad struggled too much with ball control to keep in the game.
“If we don’t learn how to handle ball pressure, it’s kind of hard to score,” she said. “When you have 35 turnovers, you’re never going to win.”
Edwards noted that sort of defensive effort is what he expects to see from his team.
“We average 24 steals a game our of that defense,” he said. “Our goal was to not let their guards be able to think.”
Cardington spent more time going inside in the third quarter and Spires responded with a 13-point period, helping the Pirates increase their lead to 56-24. While Elora Stiltner scored four points in that quarter for the Scots, no other player lit up the scoreboard for more than two. Then, in the fourth, Highland was held to three points as the Pirates finished the game strongly.
“We knew from the beginning they can all shoot the three well,” said Levering of the Pirates. “We just have to learn from our mistakes because if we don’t, we won’t have a very good season.”
Highland was led by Fuller’s nine points. For Cardington, Conrad finished with 19, Spires had 17 and Brannon tallied 13. Both Conrad and Brannon connected on three three-pointers each.
Edwards was pleased his team moved to 4-0, especially with three of those wins coming in league play, as the coach is expecting a competitive race for the title. Last year, the Pirates tied for a share of the Blue title and the coach is hoping for more hardware to come this year.
“I’ve been keeping a close eye on Elgin and Fredericktown,” he said. “This league will be good for the next few years. Our goal is to come back and try to win the title outright. This year (in the Blue), I think we have good teams and are starting to get some respect.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS