Mar. 6—CRESAPTOWN — Calvary’s Mason-Dixon Conference Final Four matchup against Heritage felt as much about Madi Dayton as the game at hand.
The star forward became only the second Calvary player ever to score 2,000 career points with a layup early in the second quarter on Friday, as play was stopped to commemorate the milestone.
But the historic moment had an impact on the court as well. It appeared to settle her teammates with Calvary locked in a tight game, as the tournament’s top seeds tallied 27 of the next 37 points to stomp No. 4 seed Heritage, 49-29, and get a shot at a third straight MDCC title.
“It feels good, 16-0 and going to the championship game with a team that gives it all they’ve got,” Calvary head coach Shawn Ricker said.
“Reaching 2,000 points was always a long-term goal for Madi. … This shows you her hard work, determination, consistency and her durability as a basketball player for Calvary. This goal does not get reached often. I have been blessed as a coach with two 2,000-point scorers in back-to-back years.”
Dayton’s threshold-surpassing score came 34 seconds into the second quarter with Calvary leading by two. At that juncture, the senior had eight of her team’s 10 points.
But — after play was stopped while Dayton posed with coach Ricker and Macy Ricker, the only other Calvary player to eclipse 2,000 points — Kait Wilson and Sadie Strawderman scored on back-to-back possessions.
After taking a 22-12 lead into the intermission, Calvary scored seven points in the third before Dayton — who finished with a game-high 22 points — even touched the scoreboard. All five Calvary starters scored during the period, as the top seeds dominated the frame 19-8 to build an insurmountable advantage.
With a weight lifted off Dayton’s shoulders, it appeared to lift one off of her teammates too.
“It gave us a good timeout,” coach Ricker said. “That’s just seniors doing what they’re supposed to do. They came out, they were calm, cool. At halftime, we always go to them and ask them what they’re seeing, and we use their input. And you see, most of the time we come out in the third quarter and do well.”
Dayton added seven rebounds, four assists and four steals to her game-best scoring total. Bethany Carrington finished in double figures with 10 points, and she grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double to go along with four assists.
Strawderman tallied eight points — six of which came during the decisive third quarter — Wilson ended with four, Cassandra Cessna contributed three and Izzy Kendall chipped in two off the bench.
Though Calvary eventually pulled away, Heritage kept it close early with an old-school gameplan.
With no shot clock, Heritage took a page out of Dean Smith’s playbook and employed a four-corners offense. The four seeds had a noticeable talent disparity, so the best strategy to remain within striking distance was to limit possessions.
To make matters worse for Calvary, Carrington picked up a pair of fouls in the first three minutes of action, forcing her off the court with foul trouble for the rest of the frame. Calvary led by just 8-6 after the first.
But Calvary opened the second quarter with eight straight points to go up 16-6. The top seeds then slowed down the pace themselves, content with maintaining the lead, giving Heritage a taste of its own medicine.
From that point on, Calvary was never challenged in the 20-point rout.
“They went to four corners on the first possession, so we just had to change our gameplan a little bit,” Ricker said. “We just pressured them until we got up 10 points and sat back. We’d have let them keep the game 16-6 and rest the girls for tomorrow if they wanted to play that game.”
Heritage was led by Lindsey Horst with nine points, followed by Kendall Eckardt’s eight, and Leah Fisler and Payton Cline who had four points each.
Now, Calvary’s (16-0) three senior starters will get a shot at their third MDCC championship in four seasons when they face No. 3-seeded Shalom today at 5 p.m. in Hagerstown.
Alex Rychwalski is a sportswriter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.