Slow start dooms Cardinal girls in Spirit Game
Medical Lake defenders Darby Evans (3) and Annette Carlson (12) try to defend against Cheney's Kendyl Cone in Saturday's Spirit Game.
The Golden Feather game was more like a greased pig for the Medical Lake girls last Saturday in a 44-35 loss at Cheney in the schools' fourth annual Golden Feather Spirit Game.
A sloppy turnover-plagued first quarter proved to be the difference in the nonleague encounter as Cheney (3-9) outscored Medical Lake 12-0 in the first eight minutes and never trailed, though the Lady Hawks got brief challenges.
While pride was on the line Saturday in the West Plains rivalry, a more important game was played last Tuesday in Chewelah where the Cardinals (3-3 NEA, 5-8 overall) earned an important 57-51 Northeast A League win to close out the first half of play that really counts.
If there was any consolation for Medical Lake it came in their fourth consecutive win in the Spirit competition with their adaptation of the Wizard of Oz for their theme claiming the Golden Feather trophy.
"Saturday, the slow start really hurt us, 0-12 in the first quarter," Medical Lake head coach Carey Schwarzer said. "The team was on their heels, slow to react on defense, and not attacking on offense."
With Cheney's Shyann Morton hitting for five first quarter points and Medical Lake unable to hold onto the ball, the Cards dug themselves into a hole that they peeked out of the rest of the game, but were never able to climb out of.
The Cards' first bucket came from Hailey Cheevers and a Maleeka Wegner basket with 3 minutes, 40 seconds to go in the half got Medical Lake to within 15-8. Kendyl Cone took control from there with 10 straight points to help Cheney bump its lead to 25-10 with under a minute to play and go to the locker room with 27-12 lead.
"After the first quarter, we got rid of the Spirit Game jitters and started to play basketball, but were not able to overcome the first quarter deficit," Schwarzer said.
Medical Lake would take some momentum from Cassidy Hagel's halftime buzzer-beater and earn an 11-8 edge in the third quarter coming out of the break scoring seven straight points and close to 31-23. Hagel's 18 points were tops for ML and she was the only Cardinal in double-figures.
Cone, who along with Morton each scored 18 points, got into immediate foul trouble late in the third getting her third and fourth fouls a minute apart and heading to the bench.
Still, Medical Lake was not able to take advantage. Missed free throws and a moments-too-late 3 from Darby Evans left Cheney with a 35-23 lead going into the final period. A Morton 3 with 1:30 left gave Cheney a 35-23 lead.
Medical Lake was anything but cold early in Chewelah where their 21-7 edge in the second quarter propelled the Cardinals to a 39-19 lead.
"In the first half we played great team offense and solid team defense," Schwarzer said. "We made the extra pass, and found the open player." Hagel scored 11 of her game-high 14 in the first half. Annette Carlson added 12 for the Cards.
Chewelah made its run over the final two quarters to make it interesting with their 33-18 edge.
"In the second half, we got complacent, our defense lacked intensity, and we had no help side D," Schwarzer explained. "We did not do a good job of working the clock and taking good shots, and Chewelah made a great run at us."
Medical Lake returns to NEA play this week with a game at Riverside (1-4, 4-10) this past Tuesday, at Kettle Falls (2-4, 7-6) Friday and home versus Freeman (6-0, 10-3) Saturday at 4:15 p.m.
"We are ready to turn up the intensity for the second round of league play, and have been talking about how this is when we have to put the work in to get play off wins down the road," Schwarzer said of the crucial contests that like ahead.
This is a big week for Medical Lake. "Three out of our next four games are on the road," Schwarzer said. " Road wins are tough to come by, but we plan to compete each possession and put ourselves in a position to knock off some of our opponents on their home courts."
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.