Defense is underrated, but not by Delaware Christian coach Jackie Boggs.
Boggs’ Eagles played some of their best defense of the year, forcing 28 turnovers, holding the visiting Cardington Pirates to just 11 points at the half and closing with a 47-37 non-league victory Thursday evening at Delaware Christian School.
“We’ve been playing straight man all year, but we decided to go with a 3-2 zone tonight,” Boggs said. “We worked on it for about two days and I thought we did a pretty good job with it. We went back to our man defense because I just like how well we play in it, and we did a pretty good job in it.”
Delaware Christian (11-7) helped itself all game long on the defensive end, recording 15 steals in the game out of the 28 Cardington (6-14) miscues.
The Eagles’ biggest challenge — literally and figuratively — was six-foot junior post Kaitlyn Kavanaugh, who led the Pirates with 12 points and 13 rebounds, but went just 4 of 12 from the floor on the night.
“We’re really hurting with (senior forward) Alix Stone out,” Boggs said. “She has a tear in her shoulder, but we usually put her on the opponent’s toughest person to guard. We went with (sophomores) Liz Sullivan and Elizabeth Blackburn on Kavanaugh tonight and they both did a decent job.”
Delaware Christian didn’t score the game’s first point until senior guard Bethany Kuykendall buried the first of two free throws with 3:51 left in the opening quarter, but after sophomore Erin McCullough hit a running jumper in the lane, Cardington’s Kirsten Dever tied the score with a three-pointer.
The Eagles quickly took the lead back and kept it, finishing with a 6-3 lead after one quarter, then scored the first two buckets of the second to push the lead to 10-3 with just under six minutes left in the half. Cardington rallied briefly, using a 5-0 run to cut the lead back to two, 10-8, midway through the quarter, but Delaware Christian finished the half on an 8-3 run to take an 18-11 halftime advantage.
Delaware Christian had the better of the shooting, despite taking a healthy amount of shots. The Eagles were 8 of 35 (23 percent) from the field in the first half, but held Cardington to just 3 of 17 (18 percent) from the floor.
“I don’t think we took any dumb shots,” Boggs said. “I don’t think we should have been shooting like we did in the fourth quarter, but everybody had an opportunity to take good shots tonight, and that’s good for us and our offense.”
The Eagles’ ball-handling helped as well. The Pirates turned the ball over 13 times in the first half, including eight times in the second quarter, but Delaware Christian had just four turnovers total in the first 16 minutes.
The lead stayed between seven and eight points through much of the third quarter, until the Eagles used an 8-2 run, including six consecutive free throws in the final minute, to take a 36-22 lead into the final period.
Delaware Christian pushed the lead to 16 points, 40-24, in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, and while Cardington rallied back to within seven points twice in the second six minutes, a bucket and free throw in the final 80 seconds from McCullough ended the scoring.
Only four Eagles scored in the game, but three finished in double figures. McCullough led all scorers with 19 points, adding eight rebounds, three assists and a three steals. Senior guard Katie Morgan closed with 15 points for Delaware Christian, chipping in a game-high five steals plus four rebounds. Kuykendall added 11 points, including seven from the foul line, as well as seven rebounds, three steals and two assists. Blackburn also had two points for the Eagles.
“We had three players score in double figures, which was great,” Boggs said. “It’s certainly better than if we’d been a two-person show. It’s nice to have Katie Morgan back to help with the rebounding and open things up more for Erin. We haven’t had Erin for a week, so it was nice to see her back again.”
Dever added eight points and six rebounds for the visiting Pirates, while Jane Perry finished with seven points.