KINGSTON — In recent years, the North Central Thumb League girls’ basketball title has come down to Kingston and Deckerville.
Seems this year the Cardinals are in a league all by themselves.
Kingston defeated the Eagles 38-10 Monday, its second win over Deckerville this year. And stands alone atop the NCTL Division Stars standings with a 9-0 record.
The Cardinals beat Deckerville on the road, 38-17, on Dec. 16. The 21-point margin of victory is the closest another NCTL team has come to beating Kingston all year.
The average score for the Cardinals in a league game is 51-17.
And they’re doing it with defense.
“Defense is definitely a point of emphasis every day,” said Kingston coach Jay Green. “They pick things up quickly. One adjustment we made for tonight was to switch at the top (of the key area) because I think Deckerville kinda looks to dribble-drive, get in the lane and get us into foul trouble. And I think we executed that well in the first half.”
Monday, Kingston forced five Deckerville turnovers before it scored its first points. The Cardinals led 10-2 after one quarter and 18-8 at halftime. And didn’t rest on their laurels in the second half, outscoring the Eagles 20-4.
“(Green’s) big on defense, he’s always pushing me in practice,” said Kingston forward Carley Smith. “I get called out a lot for my defense, but I know it’s because he wants me to get better.”
Kingston is 12-2 overall, with its losses coming in road games at Marlette, and No. 2 in Class C Sandusky.
Led by a trio of seniors — leading scorer Sarah Savage, second-leading scorer and top rebounder Madison Cofer and top defender Kali Powell — the Cardinals won the NCTL and advanced all way to the Class D quarterfinals.
What makes this year’s success more unlikely is that the entire starting lineup consists of sophomores.
“Our league is young, we’re young of course, but everyone else is young too,” Green said. “I think, in general, our league may be a year away from better play overall. So with young teams you get a lot of mistakes. We made a lot of mistakes ourselves tonight.”
Smith is one of four sophomores that played on the varsity team last year, and is learning to become a team leader along with the rest of her underclassman teammates.
“I mean, we still have our seniors that are good leaders, and they’re always pushing us,” Smith said. “And we push each other to get better because we know we have the talent to do big things, like we did last year.”
Smith, along with fellow 10th graders Jillyan Dinsmore, Camryn MacGuire and Lily Lyons saw significant playing time last year. This season, all four are averaging between eight and 10 points per game as the focal point of the Cardinals offense.
“We have some good seniors the girls look up to, we have good chemistry,” Green said. “Sure the sophomores are talented, they went through it last year, they get more confidence every day I would say.”
Seniors Jade DeLong and Cira Skinner are captains of the Cardinals, but there is nothing but youth after that.
And they’ve bought in to Green’s defense-first system, which bodes well for this year and beyond.
“Even with how we played today, tomorrow he’s still going to have us work on defense,” Smith said. “He wants us to get better because he knows we can always play a better game.”
Smith and Dinsmore led Kingston Monday with 10 points each and added six and seven rebound respectively. Lyons had eight points and four assists and MacGuire added six points.
Kingston committed 14 turnovers but forced 27.
Madisyn Guza led Deckerville (6-7, 6-3) with four points.
Kingston is at NCTL opponent Dryden Thursday. The Cardinals beat Dryden 51-12 in their season opener.
Girls’ basketball roundup
Bay City John Glenn 67, Unionville-Sebewaing Area 35
SEBEWAING — USA played the Bobcats close the first time they played this season. But on Monday, John Glenn showed why it’s a the No. 9 team in Class B.
Central Michigan University signee Kalle Martinez scored 28, to go with eight rebounds, seven assists and seven steals to lead the Bobcats, which escaped with a narrow 53-44 win over the Patriots on Jan. 4.
Katie Engelhardt and Marisa Morton each scored eight points for USA.
The Patriots have another tough contest when they travel to Reese (No. 3 in Class B) for a Greater Thumb West showdown Friday.
The Rockets defeated USA 72-41 the day after the Patriots lost to John Glenn.
Owendale-Gagetown 41, Kimball Landmark Academy 30
KIMBALL — Alyson Witzke scored 18 points as the Bulldogs notched their first win of the year.
Megan Fritz added 11 points for O-G (1-7).
Corunna Emmanuel Baptist 35, Juniata Christian School 24
VASSAR TOWNSHIP — The Eagles fell to 2-1 in league play (6-7 overall) with the loss.
Ashley Green paced JCS with eight points and 14 rebounds while Heidi Cooper contributed six points and 10 rebounds, Autumn Green added six points and six rebounds and Makayla Yeomans scored four points and delivered four assists.
Sandusky 64, Ubly 30
SANDUSKY — The second-ranked team in Class B improved to 12-0 overall and 5-0 in the Greater Thumb East with the win.
Jess Kursinsky scored 14 points and Madysen Jansen added 11 as all 11 Sandusky players got into the scoring column.