BIG RAPIDS — The last time Big Rapids and Reed City met in girls basketball earlier this season, the Cardinals pulled out a 28-27 win.

The Central State Activities Association Gold Division rematch on Friday was another defensive struggle with Big Rapids (13-4, 8-2) again prevailing 39-28 over Reed City (7-11, 4-6).

Big Rapids was up 14-9 after the first quarter and 20-18 at halftime. Kaitlyn Ray scored eight points for the Cardinals while Lauren Voelker had seven for the Coyotes. Two Hanna Price free throws gave Reed City a 17-16 lead but the Cardinals pulled ahead at halftime.

“We started off really strong and I thought our transition was strong despite missing several puppies early on that we normally make,” Big Rapids coach Jessica Haist said. “We got kind of complacent in the second quarter and let them claw their way back in. We were stagnant on offense.”

Aliza Hengesbach scored off the fast break for a 25-18 lead at 4:03 of the third quarter as the Coyote offense continued to struggle. Maddie Tassoni’s basket made it 29-18 at 2:30 of the third. Alyssa Olds scored Reed City’s first points of the second half a minute later. It was 29-20, Big Rapids, going into the fourth.

Tassoni scored with five minutes to play for a 33-23 lead and the Cardinal defense continued to stymie their guests. Price’s 3-point basket cut the Big Rapids lead to 34-26 with 55 seconds to play. Lyman hit two free throws with 20 seconds to play and the Coyotes ran out of time.

“We made some adjustments at halftime,” Haist said. “The girls came out and executed pretty well. We got some big buckets out of kids down the stretch. It’s always tough to play this rivalry game.”

The two teams could meet again next week in the Class B districts.

“Defensively, I thought we played very well,” Reed City coach Brian Koopman said. “In the first quarter, we got outhustled and they got up on us. The second quarter we got back in the game. In the third quarter, we came out, got stagnant and didn’t attack the basket. They made a run on us and we didn’t recover.”

Big Rapids remains in first place in the CSAA. Tassoni and Ray had nine points and 11 rebounds apiece for Big Rapids. Voelker had nine points and Emily Libey seven for Reed City.

“We kind of forced the ball a little bit,” Koopman said. “We got looks but couldn’t finish them.”

The game was played as part of Alzheimer’s Awareness in recognition of former Big Rapids teacher and coach Al Beamer, who was honored after the girls contest.

On Tuesday, Reed City was at Central Montcalm. The Coyotes host Chippewa Hills in the regular season finale on Friday. Reed City plays either Big Rapids or Chippewa Hills next Wednesday in Class B district semifinal action.

“We have to get better offensively,” Koopman said. “Defensively, we’ve been pretty good. We held them to 39 points. When you hold teams down in 40s, in the 30s, you should win games.”

“We got behind at the beginning and that set us off,” Reed City’s Megan Donley said. “It was an off night, basically.”