It wasn’t the prettiest game, with neither team getting into much of an offensive flow, but as far as Cardington coach Rod Brown was concerned after his team outlasted Northmor 53-41 thanks to a fourth-quarter comeback, a win was a win.
After Northmor had finished the third quarter on a 12-3 run to take a 34-28 lead, the Pirates outscored them 25-7 over the final eight minutes to claim the 12-point win in a game that had both head coaches shaking their head.
“I told the boys that was the ugliest game I’d ever seen,” said Brown. “I’m just glad to get a win and back to 5-5. A win is a win — I’ll take it.”
And Knight coach Zach Ruth added, “I thought the bottom dropped out when the game started. No team could get a flow. How many times was the trainer called to the floor for blood or cramps?”
The game was tied at 11 after the first quarter, as Mitch Yake scored eight for the Pirates, hitting a pair of three-pointers in the process; but Northmor’s Zach Carroll tallied seven points for his team to all them to keep up with their hosts.
While there was very little offense in the second quarter, the Pirates were able to take a 19-15 lead into the intermission thanks to a pair of three-pointers by Cole Hess. Brown noted that his team’s ability to hit three-pointers (they had eight in the game to go with eight two-point makes) was their saving grace. “We’re not shy to shoot the ball,” he said. “We tried to kick it out and get open looks and that kept us hanging around.”
Northmor immediately made a game of it in the third quarter, opening the period on a 7-3 run that tied the game at 22. Both Zach Neuman and Daniel Donner hit from inside, while Kyle Johnson drained a three-pointer.
The Pirates would move in front by three thanks to a technical foul called on the Knights for attempting to flop to draw a charge, but that call seemed to galvanize Northmor, who immediately went on a run to take a six-point lead into the final period.
Donner, who was called for the technical, responded by scoring six points down the stretch in the third, as did sophomore Frank Keller from off the bench.
“We tried to go to a high-low set in the lane and were getting good looks,” said Ruth. “Defensively, our match-up zone was working.”
The Knights still led 37-33 nearly three minutes into the final period when Donner fouled out. Northmor was not the same team after that, as Cardington took over the contest down the stretch.
“Our inexperience showed in crunch time when Daniel Donner fouled out,” said Ruth. “We were really working the inside of their zone with him. You take our 6’4” guard out and it put a lot of pressure on our sophomores.”
After Gunnar Lilly hit a pair of free throws to put the Knights up 39-34 with 5:10 to play, the Knights could only score two more points (both from the line) the rest of the way.
Cardington got within two on the three-pointer by Mac Thompson and then took the lead on a long-range shot by Yake. After a free throw by Tyler Dornon put the Pirates up 41-39, they got back-to-back scores by Hess to go in front by six.
Northmor would hit one-of-two free throws to close within 45-40 with three minutes to play, but the Pirates came back with four straight four shots between Hess and Yake to lead by nine. After one more Knight foul shot, the Cardington closed out the game with two free throws by Yake and a bucket by Hess.
“I think we were able to get some of our tips to fall, finished our lay-ups and made free throws in the fourth quarter and we didn’t before that,” said Brown.
“It takes a toll, but we’ll regroup,” said Ruth after the game. For his team, Donner scored 18 points.
Cardington was led by Yake’s 19, while Hess added 17 and Dornon finished with eight. Brown felt that the number of close games his team has been in throughout the year helped them put things together when they needed to.
“We’ve been here before and know what it’s like to not come out on top,” he said. “At the end of the third quarter, I told them that they only have 34, so we’re in good shape.”