CUSTER — Mason County Eastern’s girls basketball team struggled to recover from a bad first quarter and never could, finishing with a 43-34 non-conference loss to Grand Traverse Academy in Thursday night’s home game.

The Cardinals fell into a 23-5 hole in the first quarter and were never able to climb out of it. They fought valiantly to do so, however, outscoring GTA, 10-4 in the second period to trail by 27-15 at the half.

It was too big of a hole for us to get out of,” Eastern head coach Jake Smith said. “They had one big girl, and we knew she’d get some inside stuff.

But, it was the 10-footer when she was out just a little bit more that kind of hurt us. You’re waiting for her to come back into the post, and she receives a pass four feet off the block so you’re happy about that. Then a little 10, 12-footer … and boom, it was in.

It was a good learning experience for us, going against probably the biggest big we’ve gone against this season. We can learn some things from that, how to defend a little bit better.”

GTA had an 8-7 edge in the third period, and the Cardinals were looking at a 34-23 as they took the floor for the fourth quarter. They outscored GTA, 12-8 in the final eight minutes, but it was not enough.

We made a run there at the end, but just kind of ran out of some time,” Smith said. “We just didn’t have enough time there at the end to get into our flow.”

Corinna Hernandez led the Cardinals with 13 points on four 3-point makes and a free throw. Hillary Howe followed her with nine points and Janessa Alvesteffer added eight.

The Cardinals saw their season record drop to 8-8 overall. Eastern is next scheduled to see action on Tuesday, Feb. 15 at home against Marion in the Western Michigan D League.