Cardinals power past Tigers in 4th quarter
By ERIC BENAC
News Sports Writer
JOHANNESBURG-The class C district 91 championship between the Alcona and Johannesburg-Lewiston on Friday proved to be an incredibly tight game, but the last six minutes made the difference.
These last crucial moments of the game saw the Cardinals pull ahead off of strong play and bad Alcona luck at the basket to win 53-42 and capture their fifth district title in six years.
“We couldn’t make a basket (in the last six minutes). We got some good open looks and controlled the boards pretty well but we couldn’t put the ball in,” Alcona coach Brad Cole said.
The last quarter saw incredibly strong play from Abby Schlicher of Joburg who scored 13 of her 20 points including a three pointer. Joburg outscored Alcona 23-11 in the fourth and Schlicher led Joburg with 22 points.
“Abby really stepped up tonight, She’s our senior leader. I knew she would step up like this. She’s the kind of players that coaches dream about,” Cardinals’ coach Heather Huff said.
Alcona’s Kendra Cole and Megan Quick each hit a triple in the last minute to take the game to a 47-42 spread, but Alcona was forced to foul Schilicher three times to get the ball back. She hit six of six free throws while Alcona didn’t score another basket.
Quick led Alcona with 15 points including four three pointers.
The first quarter saw both teams starting out slow offensively, but pressing hard defensively. Lots of loose balls, steals and jump balls stymied offensive momentum as Joburg took an 8-4 lead.
At times, the game turned heavily chaotic as play ground to a halt due to aggressive and impressive defense by both teams.
“We hit hard with the press in the first half but we went back into a half court press in the second. It gave us a chance to slow down the game and control the ball more effectively,” Huff said.
The second quarter started with Alcona’s Nikki Smith and Karina Cole pushing to a 10-8 lead in the first minute. A three by Showerman gave Joburg back the lead.
The game then turned into a back and forth scoring marathon as the lead changed seven times, including a Quick three pointer that took Alcona (14-5) up 17-14 with 2:38 left in the half.
Smart offensive and defensive play by Brittany Cherwinski and Schlicher let Joburg take a 22-21 lead at the half.
Alcona struck hard in the third quarter with back-to-back Quick three pointers giving Alcona its biggest lead of the night with a 27-22 spread. The Tigers held the Cardinals scoreless for two and a half minutes.
Joburg was then able to go on a scoring streak to take a 30-27 lead off the skilled hands of Schlicher and Hannah Huff. The Tigers were scoreless for five minutes in the third quarter, but were able to jump to a 31-30 lead off baskets by Sydney Pierce and Cassandra Carpenter.
The game seemed up in the air as the fourth quarter started, but the Cardinals were able to capitalize on the Tigers shooting troubles to win their fifth district title in six years.
“Defensively we played really well but I can’t take anything away from Joburg. They played well, they’re coached well and they always have a great team every year,” Cole said.
Huff isn’t ready to let her teams rest on her laurels yet however as the Cardinals head to regionals next week.
“We’re going to enjoy it for tonight but I’m going to Traverse City tomorrow to do some research and then we’re hitting the gym at two on Sunday to get ready and sketch out our strategy for Monday,” she said.
The Cardinals travel to McBain on Tuesday to play against Traverse City St. Francis in the first round of the regionals.
Johannesburg-Lewiston (53): A. Schlicher 7-7-8-22: B. Cherwinski 3-4-4-10: M. Mathewson 1-0-0-2: M. Showerman 4-0-2-9: H. Huff 3-0-0-6: K. Weaver 2-0-0-4.
Alcona (42): N. Smith 2-0-2-4: Ka. Cole 3-2-4-8: C. Carpenter 1-0-0-2: M. Quick 5-1-2-15: S. Pierce 1-0-0-2: N. Walen 2-0-0-4: Ke. Cole 2-2-2-7.