NEW RIEGEL - After the final horn sounded and the gym began to clear out, a good number of good-byes were said. New Riegel's final home game of the season was more than just another battle with rival Calvert. It was the final time four New Riegel seniors got to play on their home floor. And, it was the final time New Riegel High School would host a Midland Athletic League girls game.
New Riegel coach Steve Lucius has seen a lot of great MAL games over the past 29 years in the school's gymnasium. The Blue Jackets have one more conference game to play before the league disbands, next Thursday at Old Fort, but for Lucius, Thursday's 52-47 win over the Senecas was fitting way to say good-bye in his home gym.
"Yeah, it is kind of sad. Heck of a league for 29 years," he said. "But what a game to end it on I guess. We've had classic battles with Calvert through the years, in here, over there. It was another one of those classic matchups."
New Riegel’s Taylor Arbogast drives to the basket against?Calvert’s Margaret Bowers during Thursday’s game.
The same feeling was shared by his players after the win.
"Going out like this is a big thing for us," Kara Scherger said. "We did pretty well in the MAL this year and it's a great way to go out, great memory to keep in the back of our minds.
"This is great to end our MAL home games with a win," Taylor Arbogast added. "Sad to see the league go but at least we ended it good."
To get the win, New Riegel had to overcome a tough challenge from Calvert. Hot shooting from the outside staked the Senecas to and early lead, but a 3-pointer from Scherger, and a basket from Ladd late in the second quarter enabled New Riegel to head to the locker room with a 26-22 lead.
After a cold shooting second quarter (3 for 18), New Riegel found a way to heat up over the break. The Blue Jackets came out and hit 8 of 12 shots in the third quarter.
"We tried to be more patient," Lucius said. "We talked about that at halftime, working the ball a little bit trying to get the ball inside. Just being a little more patient probably."
New Riegel led by nine going into the fourth, and got the lead as high as 11, but Calvert's outside shooting kept the Senecas alive.
Calvert got three straight 3-pointers from Taylor Ritzler, Lindsay Bickley and Kate Brickner. The trifecta of trifectas cut New Riegel's lead to 47-45 with three minutes to play.
Ritzler led Calvert with 15 points, Brickner added 14 and Bickley finished with nine.
On the night, Calvert hit eight 3-pointers.
"Steve's been running zone for years and we knew we could get some outside looks," Calvert coach Tim Ritzler said. "I thought Lindsay really stepped up and shot the ball well from the outside. Kate doesn't get a whole lot of open looks, it seems like, 'cause teams are so focused on her, but the few good looks she did get she was able to knock down some shots. That's how you beat a team like New Riegel. You got to put the ball in the basket 'cause they got four or five different girls that can do it on their end."
Despite seeing their lead shrink, it wasn't time to panic for the Blue Jackets.
"I don't think nerves, 'cause we've been in this position before," Scherger said. "Everyone was just stepping up and taking their role, and protecting the ball, and doing the best they can. I think everyone handled it really well."
Ladd hit a pair of foul shots, then later coming off a timeout, delivered a pass to a wide-open Arbogast cutting to the hoop for a layup.
"We wanted to work on keeping the ball and the possession as long as we could," Arbogast said. "Then we decided we wanted to add to our lead a little bit so we ran that quick play and we just executed it perfectly. Everything worked well and it was just awesome to get that little cushion back."
Scherger led the team with 15 points. Ladd and Arbogast both finished with double-doubles. Ladd, in her final home game, scored 10 points and pulled in 11 rebounds. Arbogast had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Her rebounding was clutch, filling a void left with forward Taylor Kirian saddled with foul trouble for a good portion of the game.
"I think a lot of times I get underestimated because I'm not as tall as some of them," Arbogast said. "They kind of forget about me, so I can kind of sneak in there and get those quick, little, easy buckets. They just kind of overlook me. Anytime I have to step in wherever I have to, I just do it."
"We can fit her in at any of the five spots," Lucius said. "It's a nice luxury to have. When one Taylor gets in foul trouble, the other Taylor can step right in. She's very good around the basket, she's a strong kid. We don't lose too much there."
The rebounding totals were close, with New Riegel holding a 36-33 edge. But, a good number of New Riegel's boards came on the offensive end, which Ritzler said was a key to the game.
"I don't know what the stats said, but it seemed like they got a lot more second chance points on us offensively," he said. "Ladd and Kirian really did a good job for them inside getting rebounds and I think that was the big thing, just their second chance points inside."
Lucius, though, pointed to his team's rebounds on the defensive end as key ones to stopping Calvert's comeback.
"I thought we finally had some defensive stops towards the end and did a pretty good job on the defensive boards," he said. "We did a pretty good job limiting them to one shot, which is good because they got hot from outside the arc for a little while there. When they finally missed a few, we got the boards. Took care of the ball long enough to get fouled and get to the line and did a good job from the line at the end."
New Riegel improves to 18-1, 8-1 MAL. Calvert drops to 12-6, 5-3.