MIDDLEFIELD—Cardinal’s girls’ basketball team learned a lesson in perseverance on Monday.
The Huskies opened its non-conference game with visiting Grand Valley struggling to sink a basket. Down nine at halftime, Cardinal rallied for a 55-48 victory to remain undefeated.
“That game was a lot of fun to coach and to see how hard the girls were working and how bad they wanted it,” said Cardinal coach Luke Kruse. “We were feeling confident at halftime, even though we were down nine. Grand Valley shot the lights out, especially in the first quarter, and we were struggling to put the ball in the hoop. Nobody panicked and everybody stayed ready for the second half.”
Grand Valley used a 9-0 run to take a 20-11 lead into the second quarter. The Mustangs led at halftime, 29-20.
Kruse then made a key adjustment by inserting Annamarie Pollack into the game for Brittni Lawrence, who picked up three fouls in the first half.
The switch put more speed on the court for the Huskies, which helped amp up the pressure on the Mustangs ball handlers.
“That got them out of their rhythm offensively and the girls did a really great job of pressuring the ball,” Kruse said. “They didn’t really have anything easy in the second half. Most of their points came from free throws in the second half. It was great to see that pressure defense and the fire in their eyes. They believed that they’d win all along, even when we were down. It was a fun game to be a part of.”
Grand Valley scored just six points on three baskets from the floor in the second half. The other 13 points came from the free throw line.
“If we don’t play that sort of defense in the second half, I think the result could have been different,” Kruse said. “It all starts with defense. Finally, I felt like for a full half there in the second half, we played up to our ability. I’ve been happy with our team’s performance but we haven’t had a half where I thought we played our best until the second half tonight. We needed that to win.”
That defensive pressure helped the Huskies to create scoring opportunities on the other end.
Hanna Traggiai scored 12 of her game-high 17 points in the second half and Camille Cummins added 14 points and 20 rebounds in the game.
Ashley Gubanyar added 11 points and Adriana Naples and Lawrence both finished with six for the Huskies.
“Ashley did a great job being assertive and composed tonight,” Kruse said. “Her steady hand at the point position and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch was a key to closing out the game.”
With the win, the Huskies improved to 4-0 on the year and excitement surrounding the program is high.
“The season is a grind,” Kruse said. “It’s three and a half months long so I’m sure there are going to be some tough moments ahead, but it’s been really important the first four games that they’re believing in themselves. They believe they can play with anybody and beat anybody. That’s exciting to be around as a coach and it’s exciting for them in the program. We’ll have our ups and downs this year but I’m enjoying the ups.”
Cardinal opens conference play on Wednesday against Hawken.