DANVILLE — The Cardinal girls basketball team came out of the gate like they were shot out of cannons in Saturday’s regional tournament opener at Danville, but the gunpowder wasn’t there in the second half, and the Panthers watched a 15-point halftime lead turn into a 59-50 defeat.
It was the Alexia McClure show early on. The junior guard hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter, scoring 11 points over that time period.
“She finally has gotten out of her comfort zone,” Cardinal head coach Makenzie Ostrander said. “She’s getting off shots at the top of the key that she struggled with at the beginning of the year.”
McClure’s 11 points led the Comets to a 13-12 lead after the first quarter. In the second, Maddie Cloke dominated inside, scoring nine. McClure added six more for 15 at halftime and Cardinal held a 33-18 lead at the break.
When the second half started, however, it was a totally different ballgame. Danville’s man-to-man pressure forced turnover after turnover and the lead was soon down to single digits, and then two possessions, at just 39-34 when the third quarter buzzer sounded.
The Comets weren’t getting any breaks. It looked like Cardinal would lead by eight going into the final quarter instead of just five, but Danville’s Ava Smith threw up a floating 3-pointer at the buzzer to put the Bears in a 39-34 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, Cardinal’s lead was gone. Danville was mercilous with their pressure and eventually turned in their own 10-point lead.
Cardinal made a late run to cut the Danville advantage down to five, but the Comets could never recapture their first-half magic.
“They played really well in the first half,” said Coach Ostrander. “If we would have shot that way all year long, we would have been in a completely different area. But we have to get more basketball experience. We struggle with that, and it came back to bite us tonight.”
McClure finished the night with 25. Cloke had 15. Lydia Moses scored six, and Rachel Lewman had four.
Cardinal finished the year 5-18. Danville moves on to play Mediapolis in the regional quarterfinals.