Runion helps Mohawk stay alive

SYCAMORE – During a timeout in the fourth quarter of Mohawk’s game against Calvert, the gym’s loudspeakers blared the Bee Gees’ hit “Stayin’ Alive.” The song was appropriate on several levels.

Mohawk was trying to stay alive in the race for a Midland Athletic League title.

Mohawk was trying to keep a late lead alive against Calvert.

Mohawk was also trying to keep its season alive, searching for someone to step up with one of the Warriors’ best players in street clothes with a knee injury.

In all of the above scenarios, Mohawk was able to stay alive.

In posting a 44-35 victory over Calvert, Mohawk moved into a tie with the Senecas for third place in the MAL at 6-2, one game behind front-runners New Riegel and Carey.

While the Warriors (14-5) are adjusting to life without a 12-point, 5-rebound per game performer in Kasey Adelsperger, they got a lift Friday from Sarah Runion, who led them with 13 points, and was instrumental in several plays down the stretch to secure the win.

Runion credited the Mohawk fans for giving her a lift.

“The atmosphere’s great,” she said. “We’re in our house. We’re undefeated here so that gives me some momentum.”

The teams stayed close throughout. They were tied at 10 after one quarter and Calvert had an 18-17 lead at halftime. Mohawk started to pick up some separation toward the end of the third with an 8-0 run, punctuated by a Runion 3-pointer to put the lead at six, matching the biggest of the night.

“It teeter-tottered back and fourth,” Mohawk coach Josh Fortney said. “I think in the beginning of the fourth quarter, we got a little bit of a lead on them and we were able to hold them off, I’ll say. We had some kids step up and take care of free throws and knock those down and take care of the ball.”

After entering the fourth quarter with a 30-24 lead, Mohawk saw its advantage cut down to two just over a minute into the period after Calvert’s Olivia Smith came up with back-to-back steals, turning each into layups.

With 6:56 to play, Mohawk was clinging to a 30-28 lead.

Calvert (13-6) didn’t score again until 1:08 was left to play. Meanwhile, Runion took over.

The Mohawk senior stopped the Calvert momentum with a 3-pointer, then followed that up with a driving layup for a seven-point lead, at the time the biggest advantage of the night.

“She knocked down a 3 and that was big,” Fortney said. “We actually were kind of trying to pull the ball out and run some of the clock. They cheated up on us so we got a layup off of that. I think that five point swing … that gave us the space we needed, the breathing room.”

Not only did Runion step up offensively, she stepped on the defensive end as well. Runion came up with a steal then dished as assist to Julie Adelsperger, bringing the lead to 11, 39-28, with two minutes to play.

“We’ve been practicing all week for that,” Runion said regarding defense. “We go against the JV full court, man-to-man so that really helps.”

Calvert got a basket from Samantha Beckley and a pair from Kate Brickner to close within five, but after splitting a pair of foul shots, Runion came up with another steal to keep the Senecas from getting any closer.

For Calvert coach Tim Ritzler, he saw his team excel in several phases of the game, except one key area.

“I thought we did everything we needed to do to win the game tonight except to finish and make shots. I don’t know what our shooting percentage was but it wasn’t good,” he said. “I thought defensively we did a pretty good job of staying on their shooters. We let Runion get open a couple times and she knocked some shots down. But we didn’t really let them get in a rhythm offensively, until we had to start fouling.

“I don’t know what the rebounding stats were, but I felt that we rebounded even with them. We were right there with them. We got (Sarah) Parker in foul trouble in the first half. (Lynsey) Trusty picked up two fouls. We executed our game plan except for just making shots.”

Calvert had a 38-29 rebounding edge in the game, most of that built off a first half where Mohawk’s Parker missed significant time, including the entire second quarter, with foul trouble. However, cold shooting proved to be the Senecas’ downfall. Calvert shot 25 percent (12 for 48).

“We wanted to get to the hoop,” Ritzler said. “She does a good job protecting the rim for them with her height inside. So when she went out, whether it was by dribble penetration or throwing it into the post players, we wanted to get shots in the paint cause she wasn’t there to protect the hoop. We got those shots we just didn’t make them.”

Fortney credited his team for its stingy defense, despite several starters playing with foul trouble.

“To be able to tell my girls to go out and play defense and be aggressive, when they’re sitting on three and four fouls, I’m pretty proud of the way they came out an played,” he said. “If we can do that down the road, that will be awesome.”

Runion’s 13 points were backed up by Julie Adelsperger’s 11. Parker finished with eight points and eight rebounds, after being held scoreless with only one rebound in the first half.

Smith and Brickner each scored 10 to lead Calvert.