Senecas sink No. 10 Blue Jackets

With seven seconds left against New Riegel, Calvert’s Megan Funkhouser came up with a steal and was promptly fouled. A smile started growing across her face which soon spread to her entire team. At that point, for all intensive purposes, it was over. The Senecas had knocked off the Blue Jackets.

“This is probably one of our biggest wins, I’d say,” Funkhouser said after Calvert’s 64-53 win over Division IV’s 10th-ranked team. “We wanted to come out and tear it up and we did. … This is great for us.”

Kate Brickner made no secrets of where she would rank this victory compared to the many others her and her team has won in Calvert’s gymnasium.

“This is my favorite one,” she said. “I always love beating a state-ranked team. I think it’s awesome for us. It will keep us going for tournaments.”

The two teams came into the night seemingly moving in opposite directions. New Riegel had just cracked the state’s top 10 for the first time this season, was sitting tied with Carey on top of the Midland Athletic League standings and was trying to earn coach Steve Lucius his 500th career win.

Calvert meanwhile had dropped its previous two league games after starting 6-0 in the league.

You could tell from the very start of the game that the Senecas weren’t going to let that streak hit three.

“It’s a great win for us,” Calvert coach Tim Ritzler said. “We got a little frustrated the last few weeks with the way we played against Carey and Mohawk and losing those games and losing our grip on the league. But I told the girls all we can do is continue to take care of our business.”

After shooting 25 percent in a loss last Friday to Mohawk, that priority became No. 1 to fix heading into Thursday’s game.

“Our goal is to make shots,” Brickner said. “The Mohawk game, we weren’t doing too hot so our main goal was to finish and make our shots.”

“That’s what I told the girls before the game,” Ritzler added. “I said ‘when we shoot the ball well, we’re a very good team.’ That’s kind of what hurt us the last two games, was we didn’t shoot the ball well. We came out and we shot the ball excellent. Everybody got going. Kate was hitting shots, Megan [was hitting shots], Olivia (Smith) was getting in the paint and finishing. It was just a great all-around team shooting night.”

From the very start, it was evident that Calvert’s shooting woes had gone away, at least for this night. The Senecas hit on 8 of 13 first quarter shots as they built a lead as big as 12 in the opening period and 11, 19-8, at quarter’s end.

“We’ve had some dull starts and this one, we came out and right away we lit it up so it was pretty awesome,” Funkhouser said.

“We weren’t flat, we just didn’t execute early,” Lucius said. “Our first two possessions, we had two turnovers so we just didn’t get off to the start we would’ve hoped to. They got off to a very hot start. We were playing catchup right from the get-go. To our kids’ credit, they came battling back. … I thought when we settled down we’d be okay. Then they kept making shots and we didn’t.”

New Riegel flipped the script in the second quarter, starting to heat up itself. The Blue Jackets countered Calvert’s hot first quarter shooting by hitting 10 of 16 shots in the second. New Riegel jumped in front for the first time on the night with 4:08 left in the first half on a basket by Lauren Ladd.

A New Riegel run wasn’t unexpected to the Senecas. Smith said they knew it was coming, it was just a matter of weathering the storm.

“We knew they were going to come out and start pressuring us to try get on top and it went back and fourth there,” she said. “But we knew we couldn’t let them build their lead or let it get away from us. We had to keep our calm and do what we had to do.”

From that point, the teams exchanged baskets virtually the entire rest of the half. The lead changed hands eight times in the period before Calvert hit the locker room with a 31-30 lead.

It was a lead the Senecas didn’t lose the rest of the night.

Ritzler said his team was able to fix the problems it had that let New Riegel back into the game, and got back to what worked so well – hitting shots.

“I think it was just staying with the game plan,” he said. “We got careless with the ball a little bit. They got some turnovers, they got some easy points. That’s what they’re going at. They’re very good at turning teams over. I think once we kind of relaxed, they had their run, we settled back into what we wanted to do, we got good shots and we made them.”

None more than Funkhouser, who hit three 3-pointers in the third quarter as Calvert built the lead up to eight heading into the fourth.

The lead may have been greater if not for the play of New Riegel’s Taylor Arbogast. She scored all nine of New Riegel’s third quarter points. The sophomore led the Blue Jackets with 19 points, in addition to pulling down eight rebounds.

“Taylor played hard. They all did. We worked hard, we worked our butts off,” Lucius said. “We worked so hard getting back into it, and then we, like, hit a wall where we didn’t score for four or five possessions. In the meantime, they were doing a good job penetrating, kicking it out to their shooters. Their shooters were out there just ready to knock it down.”

New Riegel opened the fourth with four quick points to get within three, but a Calvert basket from Marisa Horn stopped any hope of a Blue Jacket run.

Calvert hit on 8 of 10 foul shots in the fourth and got key baskets at key times, including one from Lindsay Bickley off an offensive rebound when New Riegel was trying to make a charge in the final minute.

A lot of credit for the win, though, was passed on to Calvert’s defense that held New Riegel to a 36 percent shooting night, including 23 percent from behind the 3-point line.

“We were in a zone and we had really good rotations,” Smith said. “Everyone was communicating, working through picks, working through cuts. We knew where the shooters were and we were able to get in front of them and get a hand in their face.”

Funkhouser led Calvert with 21 points while Brickner and Smith each chipped in 14.