By Pat Magers
It was simple math, but that didn't mean the application would be particularly easy.
In the end, Calvert's girls had Hopewell-Loudon's number in scoring a 71-64 Midland Athletic league win Friday night.
"We told the girls before the game that we can't win the league tonight. All we can do is beat the team we're playing," Calvert coach Tim Ritzler said after his club improved to 10-4 overall and, more importantly, 6-0 and all alone in first place in the league.
Up next for the Senecas are three of the toughest league challengers. Carey (5-1 MAL) hosts Calvert Thursday and New Riegel (6-1) comes to the Seneca floor in three weeks. Those two teams are a shoulder tap away from the league lead. In between is a road test against 5-2 Mohawk.
"Our mentality was that we can't be any better than 6-0 with Carey, Mohawk and New Riegel coming up," Ritzler said. "But if we could get to 6-0, we'd be right where we wanted to be. Now it's up to us to finish it."
Finish is what the Senecas did especially well Friday against Hopewell-Loudon.
Calvert took a 50-41 lead into the fourth quarter and held off repeated charges from the Chieftains. Hopewell-Loudon drew within four points at 56-52 when Courtney Burns hit a 3-pointer with 4:35 to go.
Four other times, the margin was trimmed to five, the last such occasion with seven seconds left at 69-64 on Aleta Daniel's basket. Calvert's Megan Funkhouser sealed it with a couple foul shots.
Funkhouser was one of five Calvert players to score in that fourth quarter. She had five points, including the second of her 3-pointers, down the stretch, as did Kate Brickner and Nicole Bickley.
The latter two were especially tough for the Chieftains to handle.
Brickner had two rebounds, two steals and two assists in the fourth quarter. She finished with 22 points, five rebounds and three assists.
"She's been like a rock for us all year," Ritzler said. "She's been so consistent, you know she's going to get close to 18 points every night. Tonight, she had 22. She's a smart player who can take the ball to the hoop or hit the outside shot. She's had a series of big games for us."
Bickley added an inside punch with 19 points with six boards.
"Nicole was huge for us tonight," Ritzler said. "She just did a great job for us inside. We did a nice job of feeding her and she really finished."
Two scoring lulls did in the Chieftains.
The first came right after Burns converted a three-point play to tie the game at 11 with 2:05 left in the first quarter. Hopewell-Loudon went without a point through the rest of the period and nearly three minutes into the second before Cassandra Hohman scored off a Burns pass.
Calvert scored 12 straight to take a 23-11 lead.
There was also a scoreless span of 3:32 in the third quarter that allowed the Senecas to push a three-point lead to 48-37.
"We had too many empty possessions there," H-L coach Rod Daniel said. "You bust your tail on defense and maybe get a stop, but then you don't get anything at the other end. When it happens a couple of times, it starts to wear on you."
When the possessions were successful, either Hohman or Burns were often responsible. Hohman had a couple 3-pointers and scored 21 points with six boards, and Burns hit three treys and had 18 points with four assists.
Daniel had nine points and Danielle Rohrbach added seven points and 11 rebounds.
"We wanted to take everything we could inside, but our post players got into foul trouble," Rod Daniel said. "We had some girls hit some big shots from the outside, but the foul trouble took us away from the game plan we wanted to try."
Calvert's game plan, as usual, was to try to stay on the run. Ten girls played and eight of them scored with Olivia Smith (10 points) and Funkhouser (eight points) backing the Brickner-Bickley combination.
"We thought if we could get it into a full-court game and make them run up and down the floor, it could work to our advantage," Ritzler said. "We just kept attacking."
Next up are the primary MAL challengers.