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Big runs lead fifth-ranked Wildcats past Cardinals
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BELLEVILLE - The Lady Cardinals hung with the state's fifth-ranked team as long as they could, but an inevitable run by the Lady Wildcats put Tuesday's non-conference game to rest.

"If people don't know by now, they are a very good team," Brodhead head coach Brad Pickett said after the Cardinals' 52-32 loss. "With playoffs coming up and still in a conference battle, it's a good game to have because it will only make us stronger. We will have to learn from it."

Brodhead opened up the game on a 7-2 run and led by 14-10 later in the first quarter. A buzzer-beater by Belleville's Natalie Manion put the Wildcats back to within a basket headed into the second quarter.

"I think we got comfortable with ourselves," senior Dana Lewis said. "We need to keep playing and showing who we are. (Belleville is) a really good team, but I don't think we played to our full potential tonight."

Belleville, 18-1 overall and ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press Division 3 poll, opened up a 17-6 run in the second to put Brodhead on its heels.

"We were all ready to get back out there and try again," said Megan Heller, who scored all six of her points on first half 3-pointers. "That wasn't our best half and we wanted to get back out there and show them what our team is all about."

Heller also had Belleville's guards in her face throughout the game.

"It was really rough at first, but you kind of have to get used to it after a while," the senior guard said of the pressure.

The Cardinals held off the Wildcats' pressure in the third and pulled to within six points at 32-26. A missed bank shot at the buzzer by Lewis nearly brought Brodhead's deficit back to four.

In the fourth, Belleville rolled.

"The thing is, we got the shots but we didn't do a good job of setting the screens. This is probably the least aggressive we've been all year. We are a team that likes to go to the basket, and if we don't do those things, a team like Belleville will take advantage of it," Pickett said.

The Wildcats scored the first 12 points of the fourth and had outscored Brodhead 20-2 at one point.

"We need to look to our defense when our shots aren't falling. We need to keep playing defense. We kind of gave up a little bit," Lewis said, a University of Maryland-Baltimore County recruit.

Belleville had four players in double figures. Quinn Rear, the Capitol South's leading scorer, led the way with 14. Kaitlyn Murphy, the only senior on the Wildcats' roster, scored 13 and both Olivia Ace and Manion had 10. The Wildcats also shot 12 of 16 from the free throw line.

Brodhead, meanwhile, shot a dismal 6 of 16 from the line (37.5 percent). Only Lewis reached double figures (12).

"(Free throws) are all mental. It's in their heads right now. The more they think about it, the more they will miss," Pickett said.

One of the bright spots for the Cardinals was freshman Taylor Douglas. Despite scoring just five points, Douglas hustled after loose balls and grabbed several offensive rebounds.

"She's not even a freshman anymore as far as experience. Taylor does everything we ask, though she still has some freshman moments. But you can't replace that uplift she gives every time she steps on the floor," Pickett said.

Brodhead (12-7, 11-2 Rock Valley South) hosts conference leader, seventh-ranked Orfordville Parkview (16-2, 12-2) Thursday.

"We have big games coming up and we need to get them," Lewis said.