At first glance, the merger of the Chagrin Valley Conference’s Metro and Valley Divisions probably wasn’t a good thing for the Cardinal Huskies girls’ basketball team.
The Huskies went winless in Valley Division play in 2014-2015 but kicked off the new season with a 40-30 win over former Metro Division member Hawken on Wednesday.
“I’ll certainly take where we’re at, 3-1 and 1-0 in the CVC,” said Cardinal coach Luke Kruse. “We didn’t get a win in the CVC last year so I’m definitely happy with getting off to the right start in league play.”
Senior Emily Kruse led the way for the Huskies with a game-high 13 points and she tied teammate Haley Adams with a team-best 12 rebounds.
Through four games, Kruse is averaging 8.5 points per game after averaging just 3.5 last season.
“It's my senior year. I came out wanting to improve and really show what I could bring to the court,” she said. “The motivation and enthusiasm from teammates and coaches has helped carry me forward this season.”
She also recognizes how important that first league win was for the Huskies.
“Considering we were 0-8 in the CVC last year, it's really encouraging and exciting to start off the conference season with a win,” she said. “I think we will have momentum to carry us forward with the remaining games, and hopefully drastically improve our CVC record.”
Hawken took control of the game early in the first half and led 19-13 at halftime.
Coach Kruse didn’t like what he was seeing out of his players early in the third quarter and called a time out.
“Things weren’t really going our way for 2 ½ quarters. We had 13 points in the half and about 15 halfway through the third quarter,” he said. “I had one of those angry time outs and they responded well and we ended up with 40 points. The last quarter and a half we put the ball in the hoop and took pride in our defense and we were able to pull away in the last three or four minutes.”
The Huskies actually held the Hawks scoreless in the third quarter, which helped them to build a 24-19 lead heading into the final eight minutes of play.
Ashley Gubanyar contributed with 10 points for the Huskies and Adams dropped eight on the Hawks to go along with her 12 boards. Kathryn Dhayer also had 10 rebounds for Cardinal.
“Haley was all over the floor,” Coach Kruse said. “Ashley hit a couple big 3-pointers when it counted. Emily had 13 points and was 5 of 5 from the free throw line, which was huge for us. She hit some really clutch free throws and did a good job guarding one of their top players down the stretch.”
Maggie Clark, who had two points, and Alyssa Nevison both turned in strong performances on defense.
“Alyssa Nevison went in as a role player and did a great job on defense,” Kruse said. “Maggie has done an excellent job with her role off the bench the last three games and is really just doing a nice job of when I get her in there showing me why I shouldn’t take her off the court, which is what I challenged her to do.”
Delaney Leichtman also had five points for Cardinal.
The Huskies travel to Independence on Saturday.