Senecas win thriller

St. Wendelin held the lead the entire first half and battled back and forth to force overtime, but a crucial game-winning foul shot by Olivia Smith helped Calvert come out on top in crowd-roaring fashion, 47-46.

“It was loud tonight, I was surprised,” Smith said.

Smith was talking about fans in the gym. From stomping the bleachers to screaming various cheers, the fan base provided great momentum when the Senecas needed it most.

At an even 46-46 score, St. Wendelin’s Heather Saalman tripped up Smith, who was in transition past half court with just under 10 seconds left, which sent Smith to the line. She sank her first free throw, which was all that was needed and the entire gym erupted. It was a signal indicating the game was practically over.

St. Wendelin rebounded the second shot and got the ball to Colleen Fondessy with four seconds remaining but a quick steal by Smith, who hugged the ball tightly and fended off her opponents, ended the game. Smith didn’t even realize it.

“I couldn’t believe that I had it (the ball), I figured they were going to throw it to her (Fondessy), she’s one of their star players, and I came down with the ball and my first instinct was to go but then I had her pull back,” Smith said.

“(Smith) was a warrior,” Calvert coach Tim Ritzler said. “She just went out there and gave it everything she had. I’m proud of her and her efforts, it was just awesome.”

It was one of those games that you just had to be there to enjoy all the excitement. Ritzler said.

“It’s a shame for the people that didn’t get to make it to see us tonight because it was just a great, intense high school basketball game and both teams battled their butts off tonight,” he said. “It was just a great, competitive game. It wasn’t always the best basketball, but both teams just fought and tried to find a way to get a win and luckily we were able to make the last play.”

Ritzler also mentioned free throws didn’t rest in the Senecas’ favor, which can be a crucial factor in the outcome of a game.

“We shot 18 of 30 from the free throw, so that’s something we gotta improve. If we make our free throws, it might not come down to being that close at the end. We had some opportunities that we missed some shots inside; we gotta play good more consistently and make shots more consistently,” Ritzler said. However, “A win’s a win, I’ll take it.”

St. Wendelin’s coach Aaron Smith also mentioned how evenly matched both teams were and how great the game was.

“It was a good game to be involved in, it was close ’til the end,” coach Smith said. “I tried to tell the girls, you know, when you’re in a game like this, it comes down to where the ball bounces sometimes.”

St. Wendelin struggled to keep control of the ball throughout the night and ended with 20 turnovers, too many for Smith’s tastes.

“We had too many dang turnovers and a lot of them were unforced. We just have some kids that take it and throw it, so we have to clean that up,” coach Smith said.

Calvert committed 15 turnovers and out-rebounded St. Wendelin, 28-27.

Seneca Kate Brickner led all efforts with 19 points, which included 10 of 12 shooting from the charity stripe while Smith the player chipped in eight points , three steals and three assists.

St. Wendelin 6-2 freshman Kamryn Troike led the Mohawks (6-7, 2-4 Midland Athletic League) with a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds while tallying four steals and four blocks.

Calvert (8-4, 5-0) remains the only team unbeaten in league play. For team member Nicole Bickley, she has high hopes in helping her team make school history.

“The girls team has never won the MAL, and that’s our goal and we’re gonna get it.”