MIDDLEFIELD—An injury prevented freshman Haley Domen from playing in Cardinal’s one-point loss at Grand Valley back on Dec. 1.
With 22 points in Wednesday’s 55-32 win over the Mustangs in a Division III sectional semifinal, Domen proved she could have been a difference maker in that first meeting.
“Haley came in and it looked like she made about eight shots in a row; it was just an unbelievable performance,” Cardinal coach Luke Kruse said. “The way she has played the last three weeks of the year has been a huge boost for us.”
Domen came into the game midway through the first quarter with the Huskies leading just 7-6.
Four minutes later, following Domen’s 3-pointer at the buzzer, the Huskies closed out the first quarter with a 14-6 lead.
Domen scored 17 of her game-high 22 in the first half as the Huskies built a 28-8 lead.
“She’s fearless,” Kruse said. “She’s a freshman but she’s absolutely fearless out there and teams don’t expect that sort of energy coming off of the bench. When she comes in and can play like that, obviously it’s tough for other teams to match up with when everybody else is sucking wind out there.”
The rest of the Huskies were just as energetic as they made life tough on the visiting Mustangs.
“I could tell right from the tip that we had the energy tonight and that we were probably going to take it to them,” Kruse said. “I know they kept it close for a few minutes as we missed some shots early but our energy was on point and I wasn’t too concerned that we weren’t going to have a chance to spread things out if we stuck with it and got our heads right and we did.”
With Camille Cummins and Brittni Lawrence dominating the paint, the Mustangs had no chance of attacking the basket.
Cummins and Lawrence both blocked three shots and Cummins pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds to go with her nine points. Lawrence pulled down seven rebounds.
“It’s demoralizing for the other team to get inside and then get their shot blocked, no question about that,” Kruse said. “I thought as a team our defense forced them into kind of bad shots. They would maybe pass the ball one time and kind of take a shot. They never really had a chance to run much offense and get a lot of touches out there so they were probably kind of rattled out there. Pressure doesn’t always mean they have to steal the ball or try to block a shot. It’s nice when we do, but it’s just making them feel uncomfortable in the offense and I thought our girls did a great job making Grand Valley feel uncomfortable running anything tonight.”
Ashley Gubanyar also scored in double figures for the Huskies as she finished with 12 points. Annamarie Pollack finished with four and Adriana Naples and Lorena Fortenbury both scored two for the Huskies, who improved to 13-10 overall and advanced to Saturday’s sectional championship game at top-seeded Warren Champion.
“I’m just extremely proud of the girls,” Kruse said. “I told them in the locker room, we lost to this team at the beginning of the season but we’re a team that we haven’t played a bad game since January. I know we’ve lost some games to some really good teams but we’re feeling very confident about our chances going to Champion, the No. 1 seed, on Saturday and the girls just have a lot of belief in themselves and each other right now. It’s a fun thing to be a part of.”
Cardinal 55, Grand Valley 32
Cardinal: Domen 22, Gubanyar 12, Cummins 9, Pollack 4, Lawrence 4, Naples 2, Fortenbury 2
Grand Valley: Foltz 10, Callaway 5, Crouch 3, Hall 3, Hivick 2, Cooper 2, Tackas 4, Mahaffoy 1
Grand Valley 6 2 12 12 — 32
Cardinal 14 14 20 7 — 55
Free throws: Grand Valley 3 of 8,Cardinal 9 of 12; 3-pointers: Grand Valley 3 (Foltz 2, Callaway), Cardinal 2 (Domen 2).