Cardington’s postseason in boys’ basketball came to an abrupt end on Monday night, when they were eliminated at home by Patriot Preparatory in a nail-biter by a 66-65 margin.
For Pirate coach Rod Brown, it was very easy to find three reasons why his team fell short against the lower-seeded Eagles: a disastrous defensive first quarter that forced them to fight back from a 26-15 deficit, poor free throw shooting and too many offensive turnovers.
In the opening period, Patriot got three three-pointers from Joe Healy and one more from Nick Smith. Trailing 9-8, those shots helped the Eagles finish the quarter on an 18-6 run that included 13 straight points.
“We gave them 26 points in the first and gave them confidence,” said Brown. “From all our scouting and the film, they don’t make many outside shots, but they made seven or eight threes tonight.”
While Cardington played better defense the rest of the way, they struggled at the foul line and controlling the ball throughout the game.
“We were 16-of-38,” said Brown of his team’s free throw woes. “I have no words. It’s upsetting and disappointing. We played hard to come back and attack the basket, but couldn’t make foul shots. And 21 turnovers — it’s tough to beat anyone with 21 turnovers.”
Patriot was able to bump their lead to a 32-18 margin at the midway point of the second quarter, but Cardington finished the period on a 13-4 run to climb back into it. Devin Pearl scored seven points during that run, while Derek Goodman added four. Goodman tallied 13 points in the first half to keep the Pirates alive in the early going.
After giving up an early three-pointer in the third quarter, Cardington got a basket from Goodman, a three from Garrett Wagner and two free throws by Pearl to close within a 39-38 margin. While they would tie the score twice in the period, they wouldn’t be able to get over the hump, with the game knotted at 51 at the end of the period.
“Sometimes, I felt we were playing not to lose, while they were playing to win,” said Brown. “That’s been the M.O. of our season. In close games, we play to the level of our competition.”
After opening the fourth quarter with three missed free throws, Cardington got a basket from Trey Williams to take their first lead since the 4:54 mark of the first quarter at 53-51. The teams traded baskets, but with the score tied at 55, the Pirates got scores from Williams and Luke McCarrell and a free throw by McCarrell to take a 60-55 lead with 4:40 remaining.
Five straight points by Patriot’s Smith tied the game again, but Cardington got a foul shot by Dalton Snider and a put-back by Pearl on the missed second free throw to go back up by three. As the teams traded scores down the stretch, Patriot’s Caleb Wears proved to be the decisive factor in the contest. Wears, who finished with a game-high 28 points, scored his teams’s final seven, including a bucket with five seconds remaining that put the Eagles on top 66-65.
“That kid’s a nice player,” said Brown of Wears. “He did a nice job inside. We knew we had to stop him and didn’t do a good job.”
After calling a time out, the Pirates had 3.9 seconds to find a shot. Unfortunately, while they did connect from the field, the ball was released after the buzzer sounded, allowing the Eagles to escape with the narrow win.
Both Pearl and Goodman scored 15 for Cardington, with Goodman hitting four first-half three-pointers. Williams added 13 and Snider scored nine. After finishing the season with a 10-13 record (9-5 in league play), Brown is hoping his returnees can come back strong next year.
“I’d like to thank our seniors, Dalton Snider, Trey Williams and David Cain, for their dedication,” he said. “We have a lot of guys coming back and hopefully, we’ll be improved next year.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS