FINDLAY - Four voters in the year's final Associated Press boys basketball poll thought Liberty-Benton was the best Division III team in the state.
Calvert coach Ted Willman doesn't have a vote in the poll, but after what he saw Wednesday night, he, and anyone else in attendance, would probably give the Eagles a vote as well.
Offense, defense and rebounding. Scoring inside, scoring outside and scoring in transition. Liberty-Benton has all the aspects of a team poised to make a long tournament run, and it showcased them all Wednesday in a 70-32 victory over Calvert.
Calvert, playing without starter Austin Ball, who was out sick, scored the game's first points on a basket by Nick Warnement.
Liberty-Benton countered with the game's next 18 points.
Turnovers began to mount for Calvert, which led to numerous fast break buckets for the Eagles. John Darnall and Mitch Linhart led the charge early, each tallying eight first quarter points as Liberty-Benton held a 20-5 lead at the first stop.
No. 2 Liberty-Benton 70, Calvert 32
Calvert (4-17): Nick Warnement 4-0-9; Brian Gruss 0-0-0; Brad Iannantuono 0-2-2; Mike Bennett 4-0-11; Michael Smith 1-2-5; Donavon Stith 0-0-0; Jared Thompson 1-0-2; Tyler Long 1-1-3; Marcus Somers 0-0-0; Austin Perry 0-0-0; Aaron Englehart 0-0-0. Totals: 11-5-32.
Liberty-Benton (21-1): Adam Cytlak 0-0-0; John Darnall 4-0-8; B.J. Lawson 0-0-0; Mitch Haan 0-0-0; Ryan Geise 9-0-26; Zach Garver 5-0-11; Mitch Linhart 6-0-12; Nate Maag 3-0-6; Brandon May 2-0-4; Michael Loughman 0-1-1; Nathan Craft 0-0-0; Brad Steinman 1-0-2. Totals: 30-1-70.
Calvert51359 - 32
Liberty-Benton2023189 - 70
Field goals: Calvert 11-38; Liberty-Benton 30-60
3-point goals: Calvert 5-12 (Bennett 3, Warnement, Smith); Liberty-Benton 9-21 (Geise 8, Garver)
Foul shots: Calvert 5-8; Liberty-Benton 1-4
Rebounds: Calvert 20 (Somers 4); Liberty-Benton 39 (Linhart 8)
Turnovers: Calvert 14; Liberty-Benton 6
"I thought early in the ballgame, we were able to run the floor and get some easy transition baskets," Eagle coach Steve Williman said after his team improved to 21-1. "I thought that got us off to a good start shooting the basketball."
After the opening quarter, Calvert began to cut down on the turnovers, but Willman said the damage was already done.
"I thought as the game went on, after the first quarter we took care of the ball a little better," he said. "We had 14 turnovers and eight were in the first quarter. You turn the ball over six times the rest of the game, you can somewhat live with that. Then again that first quarter, you turn the ball over, you miss shots, they don't turn the ball over and they make shots, you dig yourself a hole."
Calvert's improved ball-handling cut down on Liberty-Benton's chances for transition baskets. So the Eagles switched their attack to the outside.
They hit on 5 of 6 long range shots in the second quarter, four coming from Ryan Geise, as they pushed the lead to 43-18 at the half.
"We can put five kids on the floor that can score," Williman said. "Our kids play very unselfish. We do a good job of creating and finding the open man, and our kids have been very good at finishing plays this year."
"The game is extremely easy when you just have guys who can just knock shots down all night long. Not just in streaks, but just continuously knock shots down," Willman said of trying to stop the Eagles. "We knew that coming in. We knew the guys that they had on the perimeter could knock shots down. We're just like 'OK, let's hope that they miss some.' And they missed a couple. We only gave up three offensive rebounds the first half. Of course they didn't miss many shots, but they are so quick with the ball, you have to be anticipating passes to contest shots."
After hitting four 3-pointers in the second quarter, Geise knocked down four more in the third on his way to a 26-point night.
"Ryan's a very good shooter for us," Williman said. "He's changed his games in that he's able to create off the dribble. He was more of a stand-still shooter last year. But he can create plays and break you down off the dribble. If he gets on a roll, and he can feel it, he's a tremendous 3-point shooter."
Despite the loss, though, Willman said there were some positives for Calvert to take home in preparation for Friday's season finale at Lakota.
"There were some positives. You look at the scoreboard and say 'where do you get positives', but again, we cut down the turnovers that we've been making," he said. "I thought we were a little more patient the second half, making some better reads. We did that starting in the second quarter.
"Sometimes we were forcing things. One of our four keys was that we had to make good reads and take good shots. At times we went too many possessions where we didn't make any reads and didn't take any shots because we were turning the ball over. Once we settled down after that first quarter and did a better job of making reads while we got some better shots and we were able to knock those down as the game went along."
Mike Bennett led Calvert (4-17) with 11 points. Warnement chipped in nine.