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Cards pickpocket Tiders for win
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BRODHEAD - Edgerton girls basketball coach Mike Schmidt might just file a report with the Brodhead police department following Thursday night's Rock Valley clash.

The Cardinals (7-5, 6-1 Rock Valley South) picked the Crimson Tiders' (4-7, 3-4 Rock Valley North) pockets on the visitors' first four possessions of the fourth quarter and dashed away with a 51-36 victory.

First, senior point guard Megan Heller's steal set up two free throws by Dana Lewis, who led all scorers with 17 points, that made it 41-31. After freshman Taylor Douglas pilfered a bail-out pass along the baseline, Lewis beat Bethany Wedvick off the dribble and swished a 10-footer along the left baseline.

Amanda Johnson had the third steal, and also the entry pass to Lewis, who finished with ease at the right block.

Johnson says she and her teammates have worked hard at getting their eyes and the ball up the floor after forcing turnovers.

"We work on keeping our heads up in practice and now it's becoming a habit," Johnson said. "I love getting up and down the floor."

Two Heller free throws, followed by one apiece from Johnson and Riley Olson, gave Brodhead a 10-0 surge and its biggest lead at 49-31 with 3:04 to play.

"They've known from Day 1 that defense is going to win us basketball games," Brodhead coach Brad Pickett said. "Give all the credit to the girls - they're the ones who have worked at it and brought it from practice into the games."

The Cards have come to embrace the new brand of defense their first-year coach has installed. Their suffocating full-court press allowed them to take a 26-15 lead when Douglas hit a 3 from left of the top of the key. Johnson drove left before kicking to the left wing where Olson touch passed it to her right where Douglas canned the triple.

With 35.4 seconds left, she scored a three-point play the old-fashioned way to give the Cards a 31-19 advantage.

"She's amazing, she puts everything she's got out there," Johnson said, of Douglas.

Johnson frequently got to the rim to score eight points in the first half, nearly twice her season points-per-game average. Her defensive tenacity has never been questioned. Now her coach hopes she's started to unlock her offensive potential.

"Defensively she's always been fine," Pickett said, "but she's coming through for us offensively because she's realized, "Hey, I can get to the basket whenever I want, but I've gotta be under control to finish.'"

The Cardinals navigated the third quarter without Lewis when the 6-foot, 2-inch presence picked up a third foul early in the period. Despite Lewis' absence, the Cardinals's five-guard lineup was outscored just 9-8 in the frame by keeping Meggie Schmidt out of the lane after she scored six of her team-high eight points in the second.

"We didn't do a great job of showing on the screen handoffs and late in the second quarter (Meggie) Schmidt was able to do what she wanted," Pickett said.

The Cards forced Edgerton's leading scorer back into the defense in the second half and, as a result, held her to just two free throws.

Before the Tiders finished the third on a 5-0 run, the Cardinals took a 39-26 lead on a tough bucket by Olson that capped a 7-0 Brodhead surge. After burying a 3 from the top of the key that made it 37-26, Heller, threw a long outlet to Douglas. From midcourt, right in front of the scorer's table, Douglas fired a pass to the left block where Olson finished despite Marie Stettler plowing into the Brodhead senior from behind.

The Cardinals have won three straight, all conference tilts, after a three-game losing streak, all to quality nonconference opponents.

"Our nonconference schedule is not easy and you get some bumps and bruises along the way, but I think we're better off for it," Pickett said.