WAXHAW – The Cuthbertson girls basketball team opened the season with a loss, but reeled off 16 straight wins before Dane Bertolina and Charlotte Catholic stopped the streak with a 44-43 win, tying themselves with the Cavs atop the tightly contested Southern Carolinas race.
The Cavs (16-2) started the game well through much of the first quarter, but really struggled in the second frame with Catholic’s trapping defense and hot shooting.
With the Cavs often unable to get into their offensive flow, the Cougars reeled off a 17-3 run to take a 24-12 lead that Cuthbertson fought all game to recover from.
“I thought we executed our game plan well other than that four- or five-minute stretch with all of the turnovers,” said Cavs coach Joel Allen. “We can’t do that against good teams like Catholic and expect to win because they’re not going to beat themselves.”
Cuthbertson came out hot in the second half after falling behind 26-16 at the break, going on a 7-0 run to open the quarter.
Bertolina, an Appalachian State commit who the Cavs man-marked while breaking off into a four-person zone behind her, had trouble getting her shot off but closed the third quarter with a falling, unbalanced corner 3-pointer at the buzzer that gave the Cougars a seven-point lead. Bertolina, who led Catholic with 17 points, hit four of the Cougars eight 3-pointers on the night including another where she was fouled and completed the four-point play.
“If people are going to beat us, that’s how their going to do it by getting hot from (3-point range),” Allen said. “That’s what they did here last year, too. Some of those shots tonight, I mean what can you do?”
But the Cavs never went away, although they were down six points with three minutes to play.
Kailyn McKinney scored her only bucket of the night on a 3-pointer with 1:39 to play that cut the lead to 43-40. Lauryn Hardiman would tie the games moment later on a backdoor layup on which she was fouled. The and-one free throw tied the score with under a minute to go, but the Cavs fouled Clara Flatou, who made one of two free throws.
The Cavs had a look at the basket with some contact, but no call was made although the officials remained huddled on the floor after the final whistle but waved the game, and possible foul, off.
Hardiman led the Cavs with 16 points while Maddie Dellinger (11 points), Kayla Young (nine points) and Lillian Anderson (four points and 12 rebounds) all played well.
And, in the grand scheme of things, the loss may not be all that bad.
The Cavs remain tied with Catholic with identical 7-1 conference marks. Weddington and Marvin Ridge are in the picture, but the Cougars and Cavs will meet again on Feb. 12 to likely decide the conference champion and the coveted first-round bye and home court advantage Cuthbertson enjoyed last season as Southern Carolina champions.
“These girls expect to win,” Allen said. “They’ve won in middle school and we’ve won a lot of games the past two years. I’m never going to hit the panic button with them, even when we’re down big. I know they will come back if they keep in our system.
“We try not to talk about streaks too much, but with 16 games everyone knows you have a 16-game win streak. We can hit the reset button and honestly sometimes losing does you good. The worst thing we can do is let this linger. We have to hit the reset button and keep doing what we’re doing.”