Calvert, Old Fort set date for sectional finals

Playing basketball in the Midland Athletic League doesn’t offer you second chances. The 11-team league featured a single round-robin format. Teams get one shot at each other, and if someone is looking for a second chance, they have to wait around for tournament time.

Feb. 11, Old Fort had its chance of pulling off a statement win against Calvert, but fell a little short.

Saturday, 11 days after their first encounter, Old Fort will get its second chance.

Both teams secured Saturday’s date with wins Wednesday in Division IV sectional semifinals at Columbian.

Calvert opened up the night with a 67-51 win over Hopewell-Loudon. Old Fort followed up by holding off Monroeville for a 50-45 triumph.

It wasn’t a second chance for Calvert against Hopewell-Loudon. The Senecas scored a 20-point win over their MAL rival earlier in the season.

Wednesday’s win though was built off second chances.

And third chances.

And fourth chances.

And sometimes fifth chances.

Calvert enjoyed a 24-10 offensive rebounding edge over Hopewell-Loudon, with the tone being set on the game’s very first possession.

Margaret Bowers grabbed four offensive rebounds on Calvert’s first trip down the floor before finally finishing it with a basket. Seven of Bowers’ 10 rebounds on the night came on the offensive end.

“I think one of our goals the last few games have been defensive and offensive rebounds to control the game. When we came out and we had 10 that first (quarter), it made everyone pumped up to get the game.”

For Calvert coach Tim Ritzler, he said the rebounding was key to offset what he felt was an off shooting night.

“I didn’t think we shot the ball real good,” he said. “We had a lot of good looks I thought we missed, but we stuck with it. Kept pounding the glass and kept getting ourselves second and third opportunities. Eventually we got the ball in the basket and that’s what we needed.”

At halftime, Calvert already had three scorers – Nicole Bickley (12), Kate Brickner (11) and Taylor Ritzler (10) – in double figures, and enjoyed an 11-point lead at 38-27.

“We really thought we were better prepared this time around for them,” Hopewell-Loudon coach Rod Daniel said. “We knew it was going to be a physical game and we just knew we had to keep them off the boards. And that just killed us early on. That first quarter we got in such a hole, rebounding and they’re a very good foul shooting team and that hurt us also.

Brickner knocked down a pair of 3-pointers early in the second half and Lindsay Bickley hit a pair of baskets as the lead ballooned to 49-29.

Hopewell-Loudon began to chip away behind the shooting of Aleta Daniel, the inside play of Courtney Burns and excellent shooting from the foul line.

The lead was back to 11 starting the fourth and cut to nine after two Daniel free throws opened up the frame.

Offensive rebounds again came to Calvert’s aid to end the run. Lindsay Bickley scored off a putback, then later pulled down an offensive board and dished it to Bowers for a bucket.

“We went in up 11 at the half and we really wanted to come out and extend the lead, and put the game away early,” Ritzler said. “But credit to Hopewell, they didn’t give up. They kept making plays, they started hitting some shots, they got some confidence going. Our girls, we settled down. They cut it to nine and we went on a 7-0 run, pushed it back up to 16 and took control of the game from there. It was a lot of smart passing and finishing the good looks we had.”

“I think every time they made a little run of their own, we kind of had that little bit of more urgency to get to the next play, get to that next step,” Bowers added. “Every time they made a run we pushed right back at them.”

Daniel said he felt his team may have ran out of gas making the comeback.

“We had taken a timeout. We scored to get it down. We wanted them to know, ‘Hey, you worked to get that deficit from 20 to nine in just minutes,'” he said. “We’re an explosive team at the offensive end. There was a ton of time left. We spent a lot of energy to get it back down there and then we let them go a little run … and couldn’t get over that hump again.”

Brickner finished with 19 to lead Calvert. Nicole Bickley had a double-double, scoring 16 while grabbing 10 boards. Ritzler finished with 15.

Daniel and Burns closed out great careers with the Chieftains. Daniel led the Chieftains (12-10) with 16 and Burns added 14.

Coach Daniel said those two, along with fellow senior Hope Brickner will be missed.

“Those three have really contributed to the program for us,” he said. “It’s tough when you got to come in and see them the way they are. They put a lot in. They’ve been with me the four years I’ve been here, so I’ve seen them grow as freshmen to seniors. They have definitely contributed and they’re going to be missed.”

In the nightcap, it looked as if Old Fort might run away with a win, especially after Alli Adelsperger grabbed the opening tip, raced to the hoop and scored the first points three seconds into the game.

But Monroeville stayed with the Stockaders most of the night. The game was tied for the seventh time, 21-21, midway through the second quarter. Old Fort, though, reeled off the next 12 points to open up a lead.

Mackenzie Ward led the charge. She had 17 of her 23 points in the first half as her team took a 10-point lead into halftime.

“They did a good job, they kept the pressure on,” Old Fort coach Jennifer Miller said of her team. “We got a few steals and they did a good job of seeing the floor. Mackie Ward did a great job. If she doesn’t score those 23 points, we don’t win the game. She did a great job of coming out, she hit a lot of shots in the first and second quarter.”

“I was making my shots,” Ward said when asked about her big night. “My team was setting screens and I got open shots and I took them.”

Those 23 points were a career-high for the Old Fort freshman.

“She has a great jump shot and it’s been hit or miss this year,” Miller said. “We tell her keep working on it, ’cause she takes off the dribble so well. She can get the shot she wants and it fell tonight. Good for her, for her hard work.”

Old Fort had the lead up to 13 early in the fourth quarter, but Monroeville began to battle back. The Eagles scored 10-straight to get within three with 44 seconds to go.

The Stockaders struggled from the foul line in the fourth quarter, letting Monroeville get back into the game. But they made the shots they needed to close it out.

“We really had to pick up our defense,” Ward said. “Make sure we played clean D and get stops.”

For Miller, the win is nice after the struggles her team endured a year ago.

“We got a tournament win,” she said. “Looking back from last year, 1-22, didn’t win our tournament game, got beat right off the bat. Right now we’re 15-7 and we got our tournament win. The game, we won. Thank God. We didn’t make free throws in the end and that could’ve really hurt us. But my guards took care of the ball when we needed to.”

Peyton Miller and Jordan Magers each scored eight to back up Ward.

Old Fort and Calvert will play Saturday in the second game of a sectional final doubleheader back at Columbian, following New Riegel and St. Paul.