The wait is over

Two main things have been taking up a lot of Michael Bennett’s time the past six weeks: Practicing and waiting. The Calvert senior has been in the gym since the first day the OHSAA allowed boys basketball teams to practice Nov. 1. But he didn’t have much company.

Bennett and a handful of teammates had to wait for the Calvert football season to end for the bulk of the team to join them at practice.

“It’s been hard waiting six weeks, practicing with six guys, waiting on these football guys,” Bennett said. “I want them to do well, but I want them here. It’s hard at the same time, but it’s been good.”

Six weeks of waiting came to an end Thursday as Calvert finally tipped off its season at home against Seneca East.

It turns out Calvert may have been a caged animal, just waiting for a chance to let loose. The Senecas erupted out of the gates, building a 68-13 halftime lead and cruising to a 95-42 opening-night victory.

Calvert coach Ted Willman admitted he wasn’t sure what to expect from his team opening night. But his players answered any questions he may have had early, scoring the game’s first 16 points while forcing Seneca East into 15 first-quarter turnovers.

“I didn’t know what to expect. (Assistant coach Don Frank) asked me last night ‘What do you expect out of those guys?’ I said ‘To be totally honest I have no idea what to expect,'” Willman said. “We got some guys that came back from last year’s team, but we don’t have near the stuff in that most coaches have or would like to have in at this time. So we’ve kind of basic. We’re going to play a lot of kids. I said earlier we’re going to play a lot of kids ’cause we don’t know who’s going to play where and what positions and everything. Tonight we played everybody.

“I saw a lot of good things at both ends of the floor. I was pleased defensively with our effort. I wanted to see effort out of our guys, consistently, for 32 minutes. And communication. … I thought tonight they did a pretty good job of talking for the most part, and that kind of helped us at both ends of the floor. They were looking for one another. First game out after getting kind of a late start, I was pretty pleased with it.”

Austin Ball came over from the football team, so his wait to play wasn’t quite as long as Bennett’s, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t just as anxious to get the season started.

“We’ve been waiting for this,” he said. “Mike here, he’s been practicing six weeks, he’s been waiting. I’ve been here for three. We’ve been able to put some things together, had a couple scrimmages. Doesn’t get much better than that.”

Seneca East had little answer for Calvert early, as turnovers kept mounting and the hole the Tigers were in kept growing.

“That wasn’t necessarily what lost it by so much for us. Definitely didn’t get off on the right foot,” Seneca East coach Joe Nowak said after his team fell to 0-5. “As young as we are, I still kind of feel like that’s uncharacteristic of us, with the amount of time that we spend on working on pressure situations like that, getting trapped and stuff in practice.”

Bennett, Ball and Drew Ritzler showed they could be a pretty potent offensive trio for opposing defenses to stop. The three of them keyed the early run, combining for 18 in the first quarter alone. All three hit the 20-point mark in the game. Ritzler led the team with 23 while Bennett and Ball each tallied 20.

Even with some new pieces to the puzzle in the lineup this year, Bennett said it he felt the team coming together on the floor.

“It feel like we did,” he said. “We got four seniors coming back who’ve all played, some pieces coming back. Drew Ritzler playing point guard did a nice job. Practices have felt like all five of our starters have really meshed.”

Willman said he knew the team was close off the court, but was pleased to see them come together so well on it as well.

“Everybody in the locker room, all 20 of our guys in our program get a long so well,” he said. “You don’t know as players, but I know in general, from our freshmen to our seniors, they all look out for one another. And so I think that kind of carried over tonight … I knew they would have a camaraderie amongst each other as team members. Just ’cause you have that in the locker room doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily have it on the court. It was good to see that.”

For Nowak, he hopes the game can be a wake-up call for his team moving forward.

“To be honest, the way that we played tonight is the way that we’ve practiced the past couple of days,” he said. “If it takes outcomes like this to get the guys to understand that you go to show up every day in practice to work hard and get better, then so be it. But, I don’t like it anymore than I think those guys do. It’s a lesson we got to learn.”

Calvert’s big offensive night wouldn’t have been possible without the defense stepping up. Calvert forced Seneca East into 41 turnovers.

“Our press in the first half, they couldn’t handle it,” Bennett said. “We were getting layups in transition. We didn’t settle for jump shots, kept attacking the rim.”

“Our defense held up pretty well,” Ball added. “They had some freshmen playing … Our pressure, they couldn’t handle it.”

For Calvert, Thursday was definitely worth the wait.