Fast start propels Calvert

Senecas open with 16-4 run, victory ties them at top of SBC River with Old Fort

PHOTO BY PAT GAIETTO Calvert’s Mitch Nielsen shoots past Lakota’s Collin Hipsher Friday in Tiffin.

Calvert got the start it needed.

The start became a win, and by the end of the evening, the Senecas found themselves in a first-place tie in the Sandusky Bay Conference River Division.

Calvert’s 59-34 win over Lakota Friday night, coupled with New Riegel’s 70-62 victory over Old Fort, put both the Senecas and the Stockaders at the top of the league, with 8-1 marks.

That was the news at the end of the night.

At the beginning, it was Calvert’s pressure and execution, which forced Lakota into eight first-quarter turnovers. The Senecas — and Garrett Spaun in particular — took advantage. Spaun scored all 10 of his points in the first quarter, as the Senecas built a 16-4 lead after his left-corner 3 with 3:05 left.

Spaun, the freshman point guard, who was coming off one of the best games of his career Tuesday at St. Joe, looked to be on pace for another huge game. But he was forced to leave in the second quarter after what coach Jon Otterbacher said was a sprained ankle.

“Kids go through that,” Otterbacher said. “He’ll rehab it over the weekend … realistically not playing tomorrow, and we’ll check him out on Monday and see how he’s feeling.”

Calvert is scheduled to host Riverdale tonight, though many games in the area have already been cancelled due to impending weather.

Spaun’s strong first quarter — as well as the play of his teammates — pushed the Senecas to a 22-8 lead after one.

It’s the type of start Otterbacher wanted. And it continued. The Senecas led 35-18 at the break, and cruised from there.

“We came out pretty strong on Tuesday, and we wanted to continue to battle, and continue to run the floor and get to the basket instead of settling for 3-pointers, like we had been previously,” Otterbacher said. “The fast start is always a huge thing we want to stress, and continue to get after it on defense.”

Lakota coach Ron Meade said the early turnovers were tough to overcome.

“That’s what we just talked about. Calvert’s tough, and in this gym, with those athletes, it’s even tougher,” he said. “We’ve just got to handle the pressure and come out ready to play. When you put yourself behind the 8 Ball, what do you do? Pick up the pace, you get nervous, and you kind of just lose focus, because everybody’s trying to do too much.”

The Raiders dropped to 0-13, 0-9 in the SBC River. But they played hard Friday, and Carter Reinhart had a strong game, putting up 17 points.

“Carter Reinhart had a great game tonight,” Meade said. “Just got done telling him he played like a man tonight. He controlled it. I said, ‘You played like you owned the game.’ So, that’s what we’re working at. We’re playing hard.”

Calvert was paced by Hunter Hendrix, who had 14 points, and by Nic Somodi, who scored 11 and had eight boards. It also got a lift from Mitch Nielsen, who had nine points.

Nielsen is a key player for the Senecas, but he’s generally not a top scorer.

“We love Mitch. He does everything we need him to,” Otterbacher said. “We know coming in he’s not looking to score. His role is to play defense, play smart and guard their best perimeter player and get after it on defense. He does that great for us, and it’s fun to watch him be able to score, because he gets that smile on his face and the whole team loves it.”

Calvert has a lot to love right now. It improved to 9-4.

And despite the somewhat lopsided score, Otterbacher said he was impressed with the Raiders.

“They’ve been playing a lot of teams close lately, and hats off to the coaches,” he said, “they’ve got the right lineups in at the right times, they’ve got some shooters, they’re way improved from the beginning of the year.”