Senecas hold off furious Raider rally

PHOTO BY JILL GOSCHE Calvert's Maddie Schumacher (right) and Lakota's Katelyn Klotz fight for the ball during the game in Tiffin Wednesday.

Calvert’s Sydney Johnson missed the first three free throws she attempted on Wednesday.

One of those misses was the air ball that could shake even the best shooters to their core.

But, the two free throws the senior made with 40.2 seconds left proved to be super critical.

The Senecas watched a once 13-point lead completely evaporate, but held off Lakota just enough for a 53-50 Sandusky Bay Conference River Division win.

“That is so good to see — a senior leader step up and want to be fouled and make them,” Calvert coach Mitchell Gardner said. “Free throws are something we stress in practice all the time. We stop practice and have one girl shoot with everyone watching to create that pressure atmosphere. Sydney is a great shooter, but she struggled with a few. I think that took some air out of Lakota.”

PHOTO BY JILL GOSCHE Calvert's Mallary Nielsen scores over Lakota's Alexa Gabel during the game in Tiffin Wednesday.

Calvert (9-10 overall, 6-6 SBC River) even led by 11 points in the fourth quarter before the Raiders (10-8, 5-7) rallied to tie the game at 44. However, the Senecas used a 7-1 run over 1:26 to thwart the comeback by Lakota.

“We did a good job of getting back in the game and tying it up,” Lakota coach Cathy Hanek said. “That is how we wanted to defend the whole game, but we just did not do it until the fourth quarter. Had we done it at the beginning of the game, maybe it is a different story.”

Calvert led, 40-31, after three quarters and two free throws by Emma White extended the margin. But, the Raiders fought back, as a bucket by Alexa Gabel and consecutive scores from Aliza Dauterman drew Lakota within 42-37.

After a timeout, Madison King split two free throws, but Dauterman grabbed the rebound and fed King for a 15-foot jumper, cutting the lead down to two points. After running a bit of clock, Maddie Schumacher was fouled and made both free throws. Lakota responded with scores from King and Samantha Wallace to tie the game with 1:45 left.

“We would turn it over and Lakota would come down and they did not miss many shots in the fourth quarter,” Gardner said. “Their posts down low did a good job all game.”

White then sprinted down the floor and beat the defense for an easy layup. The Raiders committed one of their 17 turnovers on the other end, leading to White being fouled. She made both free throws for a 48-44 lead.

After King split two free throws for Lakota, Johnson’s two makes, as well as White making a free throw gave Calvert a 51-45 lead with 24 seconds left. Katelyn Klotz hit her third of 3-pointers on the other end for the Raiders, but White made two more free throws. Alexa Gabel scored down low for Lakota with seven seconds left, but the Raiders were not whistled for a foul to extend the game until there was .1 seconds left. White missed both free throws, but the game was decided by then.

“We had to keep the ball up front with our guards,” Gardner said. “We got caught up and we had to realize we had the lead and they had to come at us. We kept driving into the corners and Lakota’s defense was good at pinning us in the corner.”

Calvert used a 6-0 run to help take a 8-6 lead after one quarter. The Senecas kicked it up a notch in the second quarter, as Lakota missed shot after shot, sometimes at point-blank range.

Schumacher stole a pass and laid it in before Lexi White hit a 3 from the left side. That helped jumpstart a 10-2 run over the first 3:24 of the second quarter for Calvert.

Gabel hit a short jumper for the Raiders, but Lexi White drilled another triple and two buckets from Hannah Burns — her only two of the night — gave the Senecas a 26-14 lead at halftime. Lakota made just 5 of 36 shots in the first half.

“That is super frustrating,” Hanek said. “It is hard to play on the road, I get that. But, that is part of being an athlete. I think it is a mental thing. It is the same dimensions as we shoot at every single day.”

Gardner recalled his team’s 39-36 loss Dec. 8 at Lakota as a bit of motivation for this game.

“This game was moved due to weather, so we have been wanting to play this for a long time,” Gardner said. “After the first game, I let them know in the locker room for about 15 minutes

that we were a good team. Lakota is a good team and got us last time. Our girls were hungry for this one coming out. I think it showed in the first half.”

The Raiders opened the second half with the first eight points, capped on a three-point play by Gabel. Lexi White’s jumper gave Calvert its first points of the third quarter. It also served as a bit of a momentum change, as Lakota again started to struggle from the field.

Meanwhile, Johnson and Schumacher scored before another jumper from Lexi White put the Senecas ahead, 36-27. Calvert pushed the lead to 10 points twice in the final 45 seconds of the third quarter, and led, 40-31, after three quarters.

“We looked a little scared and I do not know why,” Hanek said. “I do not know if this is supposed to be a hostile environment. I get that they are right on top of the court, but when we are on the court, our girls should not hear a thing. It should just be them and they know that.”

Gabel led Lakota with 16 points while also grabbing seven rebounds. King added nine points while Dauterman registered seven points and 12 rebounds.

“I think our defense was more of us, to be honest,” Hanek said. “It was off the ball. Some of it was on the ball, but we were not in passing lanes and denying anybody. Calvert would pick up their dribble, but then they would find somebody wide open, which I do not understand.”

Emma White and Lexi White each scored 15 points for the Senecas, who will finish the season without senior point guard Shelby Hemminger, as she recovers from a ACL injury. It is the first win for Calvert in three tries without Hemminger.

“We are down our starting point guard, but I still have nine people on the bench that are ready to play,” Gardner said.