By ROB HAMILTON
After a slow start to their Thursday night game at Highland, defense proved to be crucial to the Cardington Lady Pirates in picking up a 48-26 win.
After just over two minutes, the Pirates trailed 7-2 thanks to a three-pointer by Harlee Steck, a basket by Kenzie Fuller and a pair of Brianna Dado free throws. However, they would only surrender two more points during the rest of the first half to take a commanding lead they would never relinquish.
“Every time we came in for a time out, I’d tell them we can control our defense, but we can’t control whether a three goes in or out,” said Cardington head coach Jamie Edwards. “Sage (Brannon) and Kynlee (Edwards) are two of the top 10 in the state for steals, according to MaxPreps. They get a lot done. They cause havoc.”
That havoc proved to wear down the Lady Scots, according to their coach, Whitney Levering.
“We did come out hot, but when you’re playing a team like Cardington, as athletic as they are, and they press you the entire game, it wears on you mentally and physically. It take a lot of work to get the ball in the basket.”
Cardington’s rally started with a free throw from Alyson Adams and a bucket by Sage Brannon. A Highland basket from Erica Sardinha put the Scots up 9-5, but the Pirates finished the opening quarter with another Brannon basket and a steal and score from Kynlee Edwards to tie the score.
The Pirates then pitched a shutout in the second quarter, while scoring 13 of their own points to go in front 22-9. Five points from Mikayla Conrad and four more from Brannon paced Cardington during the period.
“After the first quarter, our defense dictated what happened,” said Jamie Edwards. “We average 22 steals and forcing 35 turnovers a game. It’s all about defense.”
Highland would battle to stay in the game in the third quarter, opening the period with a 8-2 run. Parker Steck opened things with a three and Fuller added a pair of free throws. After Kynlee Edwards scored for Cardington, the Scots responded with a basket and free throw from Sardinha to close within a 24-17 margin.
Levering noted that her team’s defense was able to keep them in the game despite Highland’s offensive struggles.
“I’m really proud of the girls’ defense,” she said. “We were able to keep the game close and, even if we weren’t shooting well, we kept them from shooting well.”
Cardington would get their lead back to a double-digit margin by the end of the period, as Brannon scored eight points in the final five minutes of the period, hitting a pair of three-pointers in the process, to give her team a 32-20 lead with eight minutes remaining.
The Pirates would then hold Highland scoreless over the opening 4:22 of the fourth quarter, adding five points to their lead, to go up 37-20 on their way to claiming the win and improving to 15-0, 11-0 in league play. Highland now is 3-13, 3-7.
Jamie Edwards noted that, with star forward Kyndall Spires having missed the past three games with an injury, he’s been able to get other players additional experience in the hopes of having an even stronger team when Spires returns.
“We brought Paige Clinger up to varsity full-time,” he said. She’s really stepped up and got the start tonight. We’ll get her valuable minutes and she’ll be our eighth person in our rotation.”
Brannon led Cardington with 18 points, while Kynlee Edwards added 15 and Conrad scored eight. For Highland, Harlee Steck tallied eight points.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS