The Cardington girls’ basketball team overcame a slow start to top visiting Highland 43-37 on Tuesday.
Highland opened the game with three-pointers from Kenzie Fuller and Madison Cecil to take the early lead. The Pirates got a three from Sage Brannon, but the Scots picked up back-to-back scores from Cecil and Taylor Belcher to move in front 10-3 midway through the opening period.
“Highland’s been playing good basketball,” said Pirate coach Jamie Edwards. “They’re a man or two down like us, but they played gritty.”
However, the Pirates would finish the quarter on an 8-4 run to get within three, as Casey Bertke tallied four points over the final four minutes of the period. The team then started the second quarter quickly with three points from Brannon and a basket by Bertke to take their first lead at 16-14.
The teams battled back-and-forth for the lead for the rest of the quarter, but a basket by Paige Clinger with seven seconds remaining in the half gave the Pirates a 23-22 lead going into the intermission.
“The whole game, we competed very hard,” said Scot coach Whitney Levering-Smith. “I’m very proud of the girls. In the first half, we finished more shots, but our defense played very well. We held them to 43 points and stayed in the ball game the entire time.”
The opening minutes of the third quarter didn’t go Highland’s way, though. Cardington opened with a basket by Bertke and then added three points from Brannon and a outback by Kyndall Spires to increase their lead to a 30-22 margin.
They would hold a 35-29 lead entering the fourth quarter, which they expanded to a 10-point margin after opening the period with two free throws by Spires and a basket from Bertke.
Harlee Steck scored three straight points for Highland to bring them within a seven-point margin with 1:37 remaining, but the Scots would not be able to close the gap. A three-pointer by Fuller and a basket by Steck were able to get them as close as five, but Cardington hit enough free throws down the stretch to hold them off and pick up another league win.
Next up for Cardington is a match-up with Elgin, the only Blue Division team to have a win over them this year, Thursday. Edwards noted his squad will have to play better on both sides of the ball, citing how they were cold from long-range, while Elgin was hot as a major factor in that loss.
However, after winning over Highland, the coach was in the mood to celebrate, as the Pirates both celebrated Senior Night and held a brief ceremony to cut down the nets in honor of winning their third straight Blue Division title.
“It was good for our seniors to get in and have a good last regular-season home game,” he said. “It was a good night — the worst part is we’ll have to put up a new net.”
After finishing their regular season, the Scots are now looking towards the postseason, where they’ll travel to Pleasant to take on the fifth-seeded Spartans.
“I tell the girls all the time, we have to compete for four quarters and give maximum effort,” said Levering-Smith. “Anything is possible no matter who we’re playing. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s not impossible, either.”
In the game, Bertke led Cardington with 13 points, while Brannon added 12. Highland got a game-high 15 from Cecil, who drained three three-pointers in the game. Also, Fuller tallied 10.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS