WAXHAW – Cuthbertson’s 14-game win streak came to a stop in overtime against a revenge-driven Charlotte Catholic team on Jan. 25, but it hardly means the train is running off the tracks for a team high atop the state rankings.
The Cavs had railroaded Catholic in the first meeting of the season, winning 57-19. The score was 50-13 after three quarters so it could have been worse. No Catholic player scored more than five points while Cuthbertson shot 41% from the field and was led by freshman Reagan Iovino’s 18 points on 6-of-10 3-point shooting.
“Catholic is really good this year,” Cuthbertson coach Joel Allen said. “We beat them by 40, but I told the girls that ain’t gonna happen again. We played an A+ game and they played a D-minus game, so the law of averages has to even out.”
And, on Jan. 24, they did.
The Cavs stormed back from a huge hole to force overtime with a 16-5 fourth-quarter spurt, but they ran out of gas and fell 51-46.
It was a slugfest for the Cavs, who shot 24% of the floor and missed all nine 3-pointers. The Catholic defense focused so much on Cuthbertson star Maddie Dillinger that she shot 2-of-8 from the field, but 15-of-25 from the free throw line to lead all scorers with 19 points.
The poor shooting may be the only kryptonite to this team, although one loss in overtime to your fiercest rival is hardly going to dampen a season.
“If you shoot 15% or less from 3, you’re going to struggle to win, I don’t care who you are,” Allen said. “But those games haven’t been quite as frequently as they have in years past and we still have plenty inside. Defensively, we’re still solid. A lot of teams are going to struggle with our 1-3-1, but even against the teams that can move the ball like Dane (Bertolina) at Catholic, our man-to-man has been pretty good.
“The nights that we’ve shot the ball well, we’ve been pretty tough to beat.”
The Cavs (17-2, 8-1 in conference) are still ranked 17th in the state and fourth in 3A despite the loss by Maxpreps.com, who the NCHSAA relies on to seed for the playoffs.
So, they’re just fine.
They’re scoring over 56 points per game while holding their opponents to just 34. The team shoots 42% from the floor and 35% from 3, a new-found skill.
If there were one criticism, and Allen is the first to point it out, it is that the Cavs lack a true point guard.
Ruby Williams has been forced into the role, but the 6-foot sophomore is more of a natural wing. Iovino can play there some, too, but that’s not the 3-point marksman’s best position. Lauryn Hardiman can play there as well, but she’s seen her share of the trainer’s table with a nagging knee injury.
Dillinger (14.1 points and 6.7 rebounds) is still the go-to scoring option, but the Cavs are more balanced this season with Iovino (10 points), Lillian Anderson (9.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3 assists), Williams (6.6 points and 3.3 rebounds), Kamaria Sheriff (6.2 points and 3.4 rebounds), Hardiman (5.1 points), Trinity Cherry-Brown, Kendall Gallagher and Ariana Thompson all playing more than 10 minutes per game and contributing nightly.
In fact, six different players have led the team in scoring for a single game and seven players average an assist or more on the season, led by Anderson and Dellinger who are primarily post players but handle the ball a lot.
When teams try to take away Iovino’s shot, Allen knows he’s got the advantage.
“Reagan has been a difference-maker,” he said. “We’ve already seen three or four teams try box-and-ones on her, but the rest of the girls are too good for that to work. Even when teams play zone, they can’t pack it in or help too much.”
When it’s all clicking, like it was in a 71-18 win over Sun Valley on Jan. 21, this team is a thing of beauty.
“The girls knew we were going to be good this year, but I have to keep them in check,” Allen said. “Obviously, we have the physical parts to go out and win every night. As a coach going into a game you know if that if you play well on offense, there isn’t anything the other team can do and it’s a nice feeling because it hasn’t happened much. I’m enjoying it while it lasts.”