PERRY—What a difference a week makes.
Back on Jan. 23, Chardon suffered a humbling defeat at Madison but the Hilltoppers learned from that setback and have since won three straight including Monday’s 55-52 win at Perry.
“I think we got a little full of ourselves and thought we were a little bit better than we were and we walked into Madison and they took it to us,” said Chardon coach Cullen Harris. “We reflected on that and we learned and we grew. We told them with this year, with the schedules the way they are, there’s no time to rest on your laurels, there’s no time to hang your head. We’ve got to keep going and keep getting better. I think that may be a turning point when we look back at it.”
A turning point indeed.
Chardon bounced back from that loss at Madison with a 49-32 victory over North, its first win over the Rangers since the 2017 season, and then beat Riverside to set up Monday’s showdown with the 16-1 Pirates.
“That’s a heck of a week,” Harris said. “We beat North, we beat Riverside, we come in here and beat Perry, a real quality program. It’s a good week and we get to play again tomorrow. We’ve got a crazy week this week. We play Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, so we get to get right back at it. I’m just proud of the kids. I’m proud of our team, it was a collective effort.”
Perry led 31-25 at halftime but the Hilltoppers took the momentum into the locker room thanks to Emily Noerr’s 3-pointer from just inside the half-court stripe as time expired.
It was Noerr and Jo Janda who kept Chardon in the game in the first half as they made key shots every time Perry began to pull away.
Ashley Hoenigman then drained a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter as the Hilltoppers outscored the Pirates, 15-6.
“I’d like to think some of those non-conference games we’ve played have taught us some lessons on basketball is a game of runs, not to get too down, just keep playing, keep executing,” Harris said. “They’re a really good basketball team. I told them, they’re going to make shots; they’re going to go on runs. The key was to limit those runs, and I think we did a really good job of answering those.”
After Hoenigman’s second 3 tied the score at 33-33, Perry took a 35-33 lead but again Chardon responded and held the lead for the remainder of the game.
Noerr and Janda both finished with 16 points and Sam Liechty contributed to the win with 15. Hoenigman added seven.
“We’re successful when we’re all contributing and I think if I look at that (score) book, we had 16, 15 and 16,” Harris said. “That’s pretty good balanced scoring from three really good players. I’m really proud of the effort, I’m proud of our execution and excited to keep growing and getting better. Again, it was a collective effort. If they keyed on taking away Sammy, Emily and Jo made some nice shots. Ashley stepped up and made two big 3s in the second half. That’s a testament to what we can do as a team.”
Even Kayla Noerr, who didn’t score, contributed with multiple blocked shots, rebounds and a tenacious defensive effort that altered Perry’s approach to the basket.
“She is an athletic wonder,” Harris said of Noerr. “You just watch her run and jump and she’s amazing but what I love the most is she couldn’t care less that she didn’t score tonight. She helps the team win by playing defense, rebounding the basketball, altering the shots, protecting the rim, and that’s what makes her special and what makes this group of kids special. They don’t care who gets the credit, who gets the points, it’s about our execution as a team.”
Chardon’s defense made it very difficult for the Pirates to settle in on the perimeter, where they’re most dangerous.
That forced Perry to work the ball inside.
“Chardon came out and played really well,” said Perry coach Roy Infalvi, Jr. “I thought they were kind of the aggressor tonight and got after it from the get-go. I don’t think we played bad or didn’t work hard but we just didn’t execute well enough. I thought we had way too many turnovers and I thought they won the rebounding battle and that’s something we can’t lose out on, especially with our size. We need five people rebounding.”
Perry had won 10 in a row since its last loss on Dec. 23. Most of those games were by lopsided scores.
Despite the setback to the Hilltoppers, the Pirates learned a lot from this loss and a competitive game heading into the postseason should prove beneficial for the Pirates in the long run.
“This is the first team we’ve played probably since the New Year that really had that aggressiveness and that intensity,” Infalvi said. “I told them I want to win every single game, that’s our focus coming in, but this is the type of game where win or lose right now doesn’t matter, it’s what we do with it moving forward. We played a tough schedule in December and now to the end of the year, it’s tough. We play Chardon, we play Magnificat next week, Cornerstone. Those games make a difference and that’s what we want down the stretch, to learn from those.”
Madyson Hacking led the Pirates with a game-high 21 points and Elle Infalvi and Marcela Rodriguez finished with seven and six points, respectively. Izzy McKoon and JaC’ana Anderson both scored five points.