The light at the end of the tunnel brightens, then dims. It seems closer, then farther away.
Such is basketball life at Calvert thus far. A season that has been a study in extremes was narrowed to a game of extremes Saturday when the Senecas fell to Van Buren 70-55.
"It's draining. It's physically and mentally draining," Calvert coach Ted Willman said after his club fell to 4-8. "We keep thinking we've fixed things and then something else rears its ugly head. Whether it's fouls or the inability to knock down shots at times, we're almost there, but not quite."
Calvert’s Marcus Somers (35) sets a screen on Van Buren’s Daniel Roberts to let Austin?Ball drive to the basket during Saturday’s game in Tiffin.
This latest 15-point decision was closer than that. At times, it was anyway.
Locked in a 13-13 first-quarter tie, the Senecas watched the 8-5 Black Knights hang 31 on them in the second quarter to fall behind by 15 at 44-29 at the half.
They then limited Van Buren to seven points in the third period to pull within three, then scored just seven of their own down the stretch and the game drifted away.
A study of extremes.
Practically everyone got into the act for the Knights in their second-quarter run. Nine Van Buren players scored in the game and eight of them got on the board in the second period. In the process, the Knights hit 11-of-15 from the field, including both their 3-point attempts, and 7-of-8 from the line.
"That's the best quarter we've had offensively this year, for sure," Van Buren coach Marc Bishop said. "We've had some good defensive quarters - we held one team to zero in a quarter this year. But, yeah, that's real helpful when you can score that many."
It became clear just how helpful when the Senecas were similarly dominant in the third quarter.
Austin Ball and Mike Bennett each had a couple baskets and Calvert opened with a 10-2 burst in the third period.
That had Bishop jumping up for a timeout. But a moment later, Austin Perry's kickout pass set up Ball for a 3-pointer to trim the Van Buren lead to 46-42 with 3:49 still to go in the quarter.
Daniel Roberts, who led Van Buren with 18 points, hit a couple jumpers to give his club a little relief, but Bennett converted a pair of foul shots and Ball hit two more baskets, including a 15-foot buzzer-beater to cut it to 51-48.
"At halftime, I told the guys I had no doubt they were going to battle back," Willman said. "Every single game we've been down but then we'd find a way to get back to within a possession or two.
"The problem is, we're not collectively good enough yet, where we get to within a possession, we get the continued burst we need to get up two, three, four and then finish," he said. "We reel them back, but we couldn't get ahead of them."
Calvert was unable to score in the fourth period until Bennett got a basket off an inbound play with 3:41 to go. By that time, Sawyer Brown (11 points) had three and freshman Braxton Fasone did as well in a 10-2 burst that put Knights on top for good.
"It was confidence more than anything," Bishop said of the strong finish. "I think we played with a little more confidence. We got a big win over Leipsic last night and we were able to ride the momentum from that tonight."
The balanced Van Buren attack featured six players with six or more points, including nine each from Marcus Brand (eight rebounds) and Mac Williams.
Bennett had 19 points and seven rebounds and Ball tossed in 17 for the Senecas. Marcus Somers added seven and Drew Ritzler six.
"Some guys hurried some shots in the fourth quarter and we were in a hole again," Willman said. "We made good reads but we didn't take good shots at times in the fourth quarter. We kind of settled for the first available shot instead of working for a better one.
"This game was similar to our game with Mansfield St. Pete," he said. "We had the last good run against St. Pete and Van Buren had the last good run tonight against us."