It might not have been a pretty game from an offensive standpoint, but after getting their second win over Northmor of the 2022-23 season, the Cardington Lady Pirates weren’t complaining.
After topping the Golden Knights 23-19 Saturday afternoon, Cardington found themselves at 8-1 in KMAC play, putting them on the verge of clinching at least a share for the league title with a two-game lead with three to go.
“Neither one of us could put the ball in the basket,” said Pirate coach Kevin Fitzpatrick. “It was so similar to the game we played at Northmor. We had a double-digit lead and then, all of a sudden, we didn’t score for a quarter basically. Then we made the baskets when we needed to, we made big free throws when we needed to and made big shots. So, what can I say? We’re still hanging around.”
In the first half, the game was dominated by Cardington’s defense. Northmor was held to an Emily Zeger three-pointer over those first 16 minutes as the Pirates jumped out to a 15-3 lead at the intermission.
“We can’t throw the ball in the ocean sitting in a boat,” said Northmor coach Freddie Beachy. “I don’t know if they’re just too tense because we haven’t been in meaningful games or what it is. Way, way too many mistakes like it’s the first game of the year. We’re not that good to overcome those simple mistakes — not catching the ball or get a rebound and let them take it from us.”
It was 8-0 after the first quarter, with Madison Caulkins scoring five of those points and Lydia Hess contributing the rest on a three-pointer. Zeger’s three cut the Northmor deficit to a five-point margin at the 4:46 mark of the second quarter; however, Cardington finished the half strongly, getting baskets from Genevieve Longsdorf, Abigail Hardwick and Louisa Hallabrin and a free throw from Caulkins to lead 15-3 at the break.
Fitzpatrick felt his team’s defense paced them that afternoon.
“We hadn’t shown that run-and-jump 1-3-1 probably since the second or third game of the season, so we decided that once they reverse it, we’re going to trap that first pass and we got a crap-load of deflections. We started off great and got a couple run-outs for easy lay-ups.”
Beachy felt Cardington’s trap gave his girls a lot of trouble, but noted that they fought through it and played much better after the break.
“We’re 14-15-16 games in and we act like we’ve never seen a trap before,” he said. “But you know what? They didn’t quit. I thought the second half was good. We had about seven trips to get the game tied up and we just couldn’t put the ball in the basket.”
With the score 17-5 in favor of the Pirates a minute into the third, Northmor was able to go on a big run to nearly catch up to their hosts. A three-pointer by Lauren Johnson followed by a Riley Johnson free throw and Shelby Cooper bucket made it 17-11.
After a pair of missed free throws by Cardington, the Golden Knights got a bucket from Lauren Johnson and one Zeger free throw to close within a 17-14 margin going into the fourth. They would then open the final quarter with an Emilee Jordan bucket to get within one of their opponents.
They wouldn’t be able to get over that hump, though. Back-to-back shots from Samantha Spires and Longsdorf expanded the Cardington lead to 21-16. Madison Simpson hit a three-pointer to make it a two-point game with 19 seconds left, but Hess buried a pair of big free throws to clinch the win for the Pirates.
Beachy said that his team simply has to regroup and prepare to peak for the end of the season.
“I don’t know if they’re tired,” he said. “They shouldn’t be tired the way we conditioned at the beginning of the year, but it’s a long season. We’ve got a lot of games left. The teams that win are the ones that put it together at the end. Gotta put the ball in the basket, because it’s not going to get any easier.”
Lauren Johnson led Northmor with five points. Cardington received six from both Caulkins and Longsdorf. Fitzpatrick felt that after an early-January slump, his team is playing with toughness again.
“We had a rough stretch where we played Pleasant, River Valley and Mount Gilead three games in a row and lost by over 20 in all of them,” he said. “Since then, we’ve won three in a row and we’ve gotten our composure back and we’re finding a way to win. I’m definitely proud of them, that’s for sure.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS