MIDDLEFIELD—Cardinal coach Luke Kruse challenged his players to compete for a full 32 minutes in Monday’s non-conference game against Grand Valley.
The Huskies needed every second on the clock to put away the Mustangs, 42-40.
“The whole game, from the locker room in, I just kept saying 32 minutes because we have yet to play for 32 minutes,” Kruse said. “Every time we called a timeout and at halftime we kept saying, ‘32, 32, 32,’ because that was my challenge for them and they really rose to the occasion and played for 32 minutes and stayed mentally tough at the end. I’m really thrilled with where the program is at and the heart the girls showed tonight.”
Maggie Clark’s layup with 20 seconds to play was the difference for the Huskies, who snapped a three-game skid despite playing without two of their top five scorers.
“We played six girls a lot of minutes,” Kruse said. “We got a few more in than that, but six girls had to get the job done for the most part tonight. It was a total team effort. The girls on the bench stayed engaged and were excited and I know that helped our energy as well.”
Clark scored a team-high 13 points to lead the Huskies.
“It’s really fulfilling knowing that I can contribute to the team like that,” Clark said. “It’s definitely uplifting for us and our self-esteem to know that we can pull through together as a team to win.”
Cardinal led, 23-22, at halftime and 33-32 entering the fourth quarter.
The Huskies at times tried to pull away but the Mustangs always responded and tied the game at 40-40 with 44 seconds left.
“That was back and forth,” Kruse said. “Give credit to Grand Valley. They played tough for 32 minutes and we played tough for 32 minutes, that’s why it was so close and back and forth. They made a nice play to tie it. Thankfully we had one more shot at it and Maggie put it in the bucket.”
Grand Valley’s pressure gave the Huskies fits down the stretch but on that game-winning basket the Huskies were able to get an open look at the hoop.
Clark dribbled the ball past the midcourt line and dished it off to Camille Cummins, who handed it to Haley Adams.
Adams used a bounce pass to get the ball back to Clark under the basket.
“Maggie, she was clutch for us. She was really big for us,” Kruse said. “This is a great feeling. We lost a couple of games like this last year where it went down to the wire. We’re just playing with more mental toughness this year and you can see it on the girls’ faces. Even though we made a couple mistakes in our inbounds down the stretch I just kept calling them into time out and saying, ‘That’s behind us, make the next play,’ and they kept making the next play.”
Delaney Leichtman added 10 points for the Huskies and Adams and Kathryn Dhayer finished with eight and six, respectively.