After losing starting point guard Kynlee Edwards to injury early in their previous game, a win over Fredericktown, the Cardington girls had a large hole in their line-up to fill. In her freshman year, Edwards had already become a top defensive player in the area, leading the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference in steals.
In a tough non-conference home game against River Valley, the Pirates fell 67-63 in a back-and-forth contest, but head coach Jamie Edwards noted he saw encouraging signs his squad will be able to rebound.
“We went in the locker room and we weren’t down,” he said. “I told the girls that we have everyone doubting us now and that’s motivation. They really showed they can make a tournament run.”
Neither team could truly gain enough momentum to put the other away in the Thursday night contest. The Pirates opened the game with a three-pointer by Summer Morgan to take the early lead, but the Vikings quickly caught up and went in front 7-5. The teams then traded the lead for the remainder of the period, with River Valley leading 17-15 after eight minutes.
Three points each from Kendall Stuckman, Alexis Reichardt and Elle Hempstead boosted the Vikings to a 26-18 early in the second quarter, but the Pirates fought back to get within two at the half. Trailing 28-20, they got a basket and free throw by Kyndall Spires, who scored 10 of the team’s 14 points in the period.
With River Valley then holding a 29-23 lead with just over two minutes to play, Cardington got a basket and then two free throws from Sage Brannon and Spires would add one more basket to bring the Pirates within a 31-29 margin.
The third quarter started in much the same way as the second, with River Valley opening their lead to a 38-31 margin. However, Cardington would then go on a 11-3 run, with Mikayla Conrad scoring six points and Paige Clinger adding four to help their team to a 42-41 lead.
River Valley would finish the quarter with a basket to take a one-point lead into the fourth, which they would quickly increase to a three-point margin, but Cardington would respond with four points from Alyson Adams and one more from Spires to jump in front 47-45.
Four straight points from the Vikings gave them the lead back, but the Pirates had the answer again, getting a pair of free throws by Conrad, one from Spires and a three-pointer by Morgan to take a 53-49 with 4:24 remaining in the game.
Five straight Viking free throws put them back up by one and the teams then traded scores until the final 90 seconds. Two free throws by Spires gave Cardington a 61-60 lead with 1:26 remaining, but River Valley scored four straight points to go up by three.
A bucket by Spires brought the team within one point with 37 seconds remaining, but River Valley drew a foul, got two free throws, forced a stop and got one more shot from the charity stripe to finish on top by four.
“Their penetration — they were the first team that really penetrated our zone,” said Edwards. “And there was the free throw situation late. We’re up and they call us for four fouls at the top of our zone. However, we were able to keep them from running transition and we got some transition buckets.”
Spires led the Pirates with 22 points, while both Brannon and Conrad added 10. With the regular season winding down, Edwards’ main concern is remaining healthy, noting that with Kynlee Edwards’ injury, as well as the pre-season loss of Nadia Kerman to an ACL injury, his team has very little depth at guard.
“We’ll have a lot less contact in practice,” he said. “We can’t afford to lose anyone more. We don’t have the numbers and when you have the ACL and broken hand, that’s two key guards out.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS