To say this was a successful week for the Cardington boys’ basketball team might be an understatement.
Two days after beating Highland on the road, the Pirates traveled to Northmor for a Saturday night game and left with a 66-58 victory for their second straight road win against a league and Morrow County rival.
“I’ve been telling them ever since the halfway point that we still control our destiny,” said head coach Rod Brown after improving to 10-4 overall and 5-3 in league action. “If we win out, anything can happen. We’ll worry about what we do and with a little karma and help, we’ll be right back in there.”
For the Pirates to win, they had to overcome a fast start by the Knights, especially junior guard Brock Pletcher, who tallied 11 points in the first quarter to stake his team to a 19-12 lead after eight minutes. However, they would outscore the Knights in each of the remaining three periods to take control of the game.
Both teams were hot from the field in the second period. Cardington opened with an 8-3 run sparked by threes from Luke McCarrell and Derek Goodman to get within two at 22-20. However, Northmor battled back with a three from Zach Parrott and five straight points from Tyler Kegley.
Garrett Wagner scored for the Pirates, but another Parrott three gave the Knights a 33-22 advantage with 3:33 remaining in the half. During that span, though, Cardington went on an 11-5 run. Devin Pearl started things off with a pair of long-range shots.
Demetrius Johnson responded with a basket, but Cardington then got a three from Cody Long and a put-back from Skyler Bowling to get within a 35-33 margin before the Knights ended the half with Pletcher’s fourth three-pointer.
“We weren’t supposed to be leaving Brock, but he was getting open and making shots,” said Brown. “So we focused at halftime on not letting him get open. Other than that, we packed it in, so we could do what we can to affect their size the best we can.”
Two early baskets by Kegley in the third quarter boosted Norhtmor’s lead to a 43-35 margin, but Cardington didn’t waste any time in erasing that deficit, getting threes from Goodman and Wagner and a two-point shot from McCarrell to knot the score at 43.
The fact Cardington was able to use the three-pointer to get back into the game didn’t surprise Northmor coach Zach Ruth, who had previously coached a Northmor team that offset a lack of size with strong outside shooting ability.
“They’re a lot like my team from five or six years ago,” he said. “We’d shoot 10-12 threes a night and had a good streak of games where we made at least 10. If they’re falling, that builds confidence. Hats off to coach Brown. We go there and beat them by 24, then they come here and beat us by eight. That’s over a 30-point swing.”
The teams traded baskets for a few possessions, but a Goodman three gave Cardington a 50-49 lead and a free throw by Pearl made it 51-49 entering the fourth quarter.
The Pirates made sure that lead did not evaporate down the stretch. After Long and Kegley traded baskets to open the fourth, Cardington got shots from both Long and Pearl to move in front by six. Brown noted that since the addition of Long, a transfer who had to sit out the first half of the season, his team is unbeaten.
“We’re 3-0 since he came back,” said the coach. “Tonight is probably the best he’s played. He was rushing a bit in the first two games, but we’re getting more comfortable with him now.”
A Pletcher three-pointer brought Northmor within a 57-54 margin with 3:58 to play, but Northmor would not get any closer. Over those final minutes, the Pirates hit 9-of-12 shots from the free throw line to clinch the win.
After the game, Ruth was most upset that his team has dropped two straight games at home.
“To lose two straight home games hurts,” he said. “I take things pretty personally. The community has supported us and we’re putting a good product on the court, but I feel we’ve let them down and that’s partly my fault.”
However, he noted that, much like in the loss against Highland, a lot of his team’s problems came down to simple execution.
“We kind of zoned out in crucial situations,” he said. “We had some blown assignments and it cost us. The only way this team learns is to visibly see it.”
Pletcher led the Knights with 20 points and five three-pointers, with all but one three coming in the first half. Kegley added 11, while both Alijah Keen and Parrott finished with eight. Cardington got 18 points and three threes by Goodman, while Pearl scored 17 and Long contributed 12.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS