• Geoff Cowles/News Cardington’s Josh Shook (12) tries to squeeze his way through Highland defenders Gavin Hankins (5) and Wyatt Groves (33) during their Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference boy’s basketball game Tuesday at Highland. The Pirates downed the Scots, 66-33.
  • Geoff Cowles/News Highland’s Jordan Bellamy flies through the lane for a basket against visiting Cardington in a Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference boy’s basketball game Tuesday.

SPARTA — It was the hard and painful first steps that a young basketball team must take if they are going to grow at the varsity level. The Highland Scots (0-2, 0-1 KMAC) opened their conference schedule at home against a very quick Cardington Pirates (3-1, 2-0 KMAC) team that jumped out to a 21-7 lead in the first half. The Pirates led by as many as 38 points and coasted to a 66-33 victory in Tuesday’s Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference contest.

“(Cardington) did a great job defensively,” said Highland coach Chris Powell. “They really pressured us. Then, on the offensive end, they ran the floor really well and that put us in a tough spot, too.”

The Pirates had three players score in double figures, led by Danny Vaught, who had 16 points. He was joined by teammates Avery Harper (11 points) and Trey Brininger (12 points). Bryant Marcum was the Highland’s top point scorer with seven.

The Pirates disrupted everything that the Scots attempted to do on offense, grabbing 10 steals in the first half and taking a 46-12 first half lead into the locker room. Cardington finished the game with 15 steals. Highland had six of their seven steals in the second half. Junior Garison Hankins led the Scots with three. Brininger had three steals to lead Cardington.

“We expected that,” Powell said. “We’ve seen them play a little bit, so we knew they were going to come out and pressure us. We knew they were going to run on us and trap us a little bit. We worked on that in practice, but it’s a different story when you get out here on the court with the lights on and the bleachers pulled out.”

The Scots fought for the ball in the second half, managing to pull down 10 offensive rebounds in the final two quarters. Cardington had a slight edge in total rebounds, 33-32. The Scots, however, turned the ball over 21 times to Cardington’s 10.

“We really had trouble getting into a rhythm,” Powell said. “By the time we were able to do anything, the score was lopsided.”

The Scots will travel to Fredericktown this Friday at 7 p.m.

“We’ve got to learn from tonight, for sure,” Powell said. “I think that Fredericktown is similar to Cardington. They like to move the ball, they like to run it in transition, they like to shoot it a little bit and they’ve got some quick guards. Fredericktown doesn’t pressure as much on defense. We’ve got two days to figure out how to handle the ball a little better on the offensive side. We also need to do a little better job of competing, getting matched up in transition and rebounding on the defensive side.”

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Geoff Cowles: 740-397-5333 or gcowles@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @http://twitter.com/mountvernonnews