By Karl Younkman
The Wellington Daily News
It was a tale of two halves for the South Haven Cardinals Friday night in their game against visiting Norwich. The first half was somewhat forgettable but the second half saw a resurgent Cardinal team fight back hard against the Eagles only to come up on the short end, losing 39-33.
Both teams found the early going tough, with several turnovers and cold shooting being the norm of the first two quarters. South Haven had difficulty controlling the basketball, committing six turnovers in the 1st quarter alone. Norwich wasn't taking much advantage of the situation however, as the 1st quarter ended with Eagles leading only 8-6.
The Cardinals continued to find making shots difficult in the 2nd quarter, tallying only 3 points for the entire period. Fouls became a problem also with Norwich shooting bonus freethrows early in the quarter. South Haven's leading scorer Anthony Hawkins picked up his third foul with 3:14 left in the first half.
"I thought Anthony played well considering he only got to play half the game," Cardinal head coach Kalen Fitch said after the game. Indeed, the foul situation was a bit one-sided for the contest. Norwich ended the game with 31 freethrow attempts, cashing in 16 of them. South Haven, on the other hand, attempted only 13 freebies, making only 3.
The first half ended with Norwich in front 16-9 and coach Fitch went to work on his halftime pep talk. "I kind of got on 'em at halftime," said Fitch. The results were positive as the Cardinals came out for the 3rd quarter and responded with a more aggressive effort. "We picked up our defense and applied more ball pressure," said Fitch. "On offense we tried to get the kids to go up strong instead of settling for outside shots. We at least got more freethrow attempts because of that."
In the 3rd, the Cardinals went to the full-court press and forced Norwich into five turnovers for the quarter. A steal and a layup by Zach Pounds at the end of the quarter brought South Haven within three and the score after three was 29-26, Norwich still leading.
The steals kept coming for South Haven in the 4th quarter as they forced seven Eagle turnovers. Again, though, the shooting went cold for the Cardinals. Norwich grabbed 11 defensive rebounds in the 4th quarter alone. The foul bug kept biting South Haven also. Hawkins picked up his fourth foul at the 5:45 mark and ultimately fouled out with 3:14 left in the game.
The Cardinals pulled within one 32-31 with 1:52 left in the game and again 34-33 with a minute and a half left. That was it for South Haven as Norwich salted the game away with freethrows. Tristian Wallace sank 3 of 4 foul shots in the last minute to ice it for the Eagles.
The turnovers didn't come as often for South Haven in the 2nd half and they ended the game with 16 while Norwich lost the ball 19 times. In the rebound department, Norwich held sway with 37 total to 27 for the Cardinals.
Hawkins led the scoring for South Haven with 8 points followed by Braydyn Wilkey with 6 points and Tanner Creed netting 4. Jacob Norris led the Eagles with 8 points with Garrett Wise and Cale Goebel scoring 7 each.
"I thought our guys fought hard after our leader left the game with fouls," coach Fitch said. "We played good defense in the second half."
The Cardinals next play Garber High before traveling to Burden to take on Central-Burden High this week.
In the girls game at South Haven Friday night, the Lady Cardinals did just the opposite of what the boys would do in the later game. The first half for South Haven found the Lady Cardinals taking a 24-23 halftime lead, but in the second half the scoring dried up and the Norwich Lady Eagles posted a 47-35 win.
The 11 second half points South Haven scored were mostly from field goals as the foul shooting of the Lady Cardinals suffered for most of the half.
In the scoring department for South Haven, Baylee Tanner dropped in 10 points for the game followed by Monica Harris with 9 and Deborah Morrison scoring 7. Norwich showed balanced scoring with Macy Stephens dropping in 13 points to lead the Lady Eagles. Bailey Poe and Megan Kelly scored 11 and 10 respectively.
South Haven head coach Mike Heater pointed to the battle of loose balls as the difference in the game. "Norwich beat us to a lot of, what we call 50-50 balls," coach Heater said after the game. "They had some bigger, stronger kids and they hurt us on the boards with the rebounds."
Heater mentioned the difference in defensive schemes the Lady Eagles applied in each of the halves. "In the 1st half they played us man-to-man but in the 2nd half they went to a zone," Heater said. " We had trouble knocking down shots after they went to the zone."
Coach Heater was happy with two of his players defensive efforts in the game. "Monica Harris did a good job creating turnovers and Paige Turek had several steals," said Heater. "They both played very aggressive."