MIDDLEFIELD—Cardinal played rival Berkshire nearly even for all but two minutes of Tuesday’s regular season finale for both teams.
That two minute stretch made all the difference in the Badgers’ 60-53 win.
“The kids went out and played hard,” said Cardinal coach Jon Cummins. “It wasn't for a lack of effort. We just didn't execute down the stretch.”
Cardinal’s stretch of bad luck began midway through the fourth quarter when Robbie Bruncak bounced a loose ball off the leg of Berkshire’s Ryan Johnson. The ball appeared to hit the sideline but Johnson scooped up the ball and raced down the court for a layup. He was fouled in the process and converted the and-one to give the Badgers a 47-45 lead.
Hess hit all four free throws and the Badgers scored on the ensuing possession. The Huskies never recovered.
“The ball didn't really bounce our way on a few different occasions, especially in that second half,” Cummins said. “That six-point swing when Hess got fouled and we got the technical and they scored off that, that was a six point turnaround right there and we couldn’t dig ourselves out of it.”
Cardinal opened the game on an 8-0 run but the Badgers responded with an 11-point run of their own.
The rivals traded baskets throughout the second quarter and battled to a 25-25 tie at halftime.
Cardinal led, 43-41, after three quarters of play.
“We played good for a lot of the game,” Cummins said. “The effort was definitely there. They went out and gave 100-percent but again we came up short against our rival team. You want to win and playing your hardest doesn't get you wins. You have to execute on both ends of the floor.”
Berkshire executed from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
The Badgers connected on 11 of 14 tries from the charity stripe while outscoring the Huskies in the final eight minutes, 19-10.
Robbie Mulh helped spark Cardinal’s third quarter offensive surge by scoring 12 of his team-high 16 points in the frame.
He fouled out midway through the fourth.
“Mentally they were doing OK when Robbie went out but he is our ringleader out there as far as being our workhorse and doing a lot of things for us,” Cummins said. “At the end of the game he was out and we had to get a little bit more creative, so without him out there it was a little tough.”
Cardinal closed out the regular season with a 6-16 record while the Badgers finished 11-11.
The Huskies open the postseason on Tuesday at LaBrae. The Vikings are ranked No. 1 in Ohio’s Division III.
Despite their lack of wins, Cardinal has been playing more competitive down the stretch.
“We’re playing well at times,” Cummins said. “At the beginning of the game people ask me what I think. We can win the game or lose by 20. I just don’t know which team is going to show up. Having a younger team, that happens a lot. If we're mentally ready to play the game we can compete with anybody. I really believe that.”