Calvert gets one to remember
Memories stay with you a while.
During their four years at Calvert, four Seneca seniors – Brian Gruss, Jared Thompson, Brad Iannantuono and Nick Warnement – have made a lot of memories. Coach Ted Willman wanted them to make sure their final one of playing at home was a good one.
“We talked to our seniors before the game about ‘this is the last game you’re going to play at home. You’re going to remember this game. Make sure you win this game. Let’s find a way,'” Willman said. “We talked to the underclassmen, ‘underclassmen, in a year or two, you’re going to be in the spot they’re in right now. You’re going to want to go out and be a winner on your home floor your last game.'”
It didn’t look like the final memory would be a pleasant one after 15 first half turnovers sent Calvert into the locker room with a nine-point deficit to Mohawk.
But things turned around in the final 16 minutes, and despite the many trials and tribulations they have endured so far this season, the Calvert seniors went out a winner, rallying to defeat Mohawk 70-59.
“I’ve had some pretty great memories in high school, but this will be one of my everlasting ones I’ll never forget,” Thompson said. “My four years have flown by and this is probably one of the more touching moments, finishing out my high school career and a victory at home, it can’t get any better.”
“It was bittersweet,” Gruss added after Calvert improved to 4-15, 3-6 in the Midland Athletic League. “We’ve been practicing all week, we knew Mohawk was a team we could beat. We were looking forward to the game and finally getting a win.
“Coach just talked about how this was going to be a game we’re going to remember forever. They remember theirs from 30 years ago, so this is definitely a game I’ll remember for a long time.”
Gruss’ final home game was one of his best, posting a double-double, grabbing 14 rebounds to go with 13 points. He knocked down a pair of 3-pointers during a third quarter run that turned the game around.
Mohawk increased its advantage to 11 in the third before Gruss knocked down a trifecta to get things started for the Senecas.
That was soon followed up by a technical foul called on Mohawk. Austin Ball hit two foul shots and Gruss hit another 3-pointer to make it a five-point possession.
Mohawk (6-12, 3-6) responded with a basket, but momentum was in the process of fully switching over to Calvert’s side. Mike Bennett and Ball each hit 3-pointers with Ball’s giving Calvert its first lead with 1:06 left in the third.
Add in a pair of baskets to start the fourth and it was an 18-2 Seneca run.
“We’re having trouble stopping runs,” Mohawk coach John Arnold said. “When the other team goes on a run, we’re having trouble stopping it. They started their run. A tough technical foul call turned into a five-point possession, then they hit a 3 the very next possession. That’s a huge swing. … We just didn’t recover well from there.”
When asking the difference from the first half to the second, the near unanimous answer from the Calvert side was ball control. After 15 first half turnovers, the Senecas committed just one in the third quarter and five total in the second half.
“We did a better job of taking care of the ball,” Willman said. “We came down at halftime and said ‘fellas, our biggest problem right now, is we’re our own worst enemy,’ ’cause we were turning the ball over. It was like a hot potato. It’s like ‘I don’t want it, you take it.’ We didn’t even give ourselves a chance to make reads. We told them going in all week ‘we cannot give up layups, we cannot give up offensive rebounds and we can’t have live ball turnovers where they get to go in transition because they’re good at that.'”
“We just needed to cut down on turnovers, not give up so many layups and knock down some shots,” Gruss added. “We do that and we’ll be put in a situation where we could win.”
Thompson scored seven of his 12 points in the fourth quarter and Ball scored six down the stretch as Calvert held off a late Mohawk charge. Ball finished with a team-high 16 points. Bennett was the fourth Seneca to score in double figures, totaling 12.
Calvert’s lead got as high as 11, but Drew Loose scored six straight to bring Mohawk within five with 56.3 seconds to play. Mohawk had a chance to pull closer but a missed layup with 38 seconds left damaged its comeback chances.
“It’s a very tough loss,” Arnold said. “I really feel we should’ve had that one, especially after the first half we played. I don’t think we played our best in the first half by any means, but we should’ve won that game after being up nine at half.”
Mohawk’s pressure defense and fast-paced offense enabled the Warriors to build a lead as big as 12 in the second quarter, with Loose leading the way. Loose had a game-high 23 points including a stretch of nine straight Warrior points in the second quarter as the lead grew.
Still, it was a lead Calvert was confident it could overcome.
“I knew we could overcome it. We’ve been in that situation (before),” Thompson said. “Our record doesn’t show how good we really are. We should be .500 because there’s, like, eight or nine games we should’ve won, but we just didn’t come out and finish. We’ve learned and now were here with a victory.”
Not only did they get the victory, but they got a final memory of their home court that will last a lifetime.