The Eagles have made themselves right at home in the Class D regional round as of late, but the program would love nothing more than to spread their wings and soar into the quarterfinals.
In order to do that, however, they will need to do something they've never done before — knock off top-ranked Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart in the regional finals.
The Eagles made sure they didn't stub their toes on any roadblocks leading into the highly anticipated rematch with the Irish, as they dispatched a scrappy Bear Lake squad in the regional semifinals on Tuesday at Big Rapids Crossroads Academy.
Before the buzzer sounded on a 52-33 win over the Lakers, Fruitport Calvary head coach Brad Richards could be overheard discussing adjustments his team would need to make before Thursday's regional title game.
Despite a strong showing in many phases, Richards knows his team will need to find another gear if they are going to upset the No. 1 team in the Class D field.
"I thought we were capable of rebounding better than we showed tonight," he said. "We didn't respond well to their big post player. We have to box out better than that if we are going to beat Mount Pleasant. We need to clean up the turnovers, too. You have to take care of the ball in the postseason if you're going to advance."
Sophomore standout Kelsey Richards finished with a game-high 31 points to lead the Eagles, while Liz Cammenga (eight), Bree Johnson (six), Emily Wesner (five) and Kristina Warren (two) rounded out the scoring for Fruitport Calvary Christian.
Yuki Babinec scored 19 points to lead the Lakers, while Mariah Beaver had five; Abigail Cross added four and Alyssa Eisenlohr added two.
"We really feel like we have three primary scorers out there, but we can only take advantage of that if we are moving the ball around well," added Richards. "Lizzie hit some big shots for us in that third quarter to get us rolling in the second half, and I really believe she's one of the best players in the area.
"Our two guards are really steady with the ball and make good decisions. That will be a huge key to our game on Thursday. We're ready, though. On the bus ride home, we're going to watch some film on (Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart). The coaches helped prepare a scouting report on them in hopes that we would win tonight."
The Eagles were knotted with the Lakers at 15-15 after the first quarter, but a 15-3 run in the second quarter gave Fruitport Calvary all the momentum they would need to take care of business in the second half.
The third quarter saw the Eagles surge ahead to a 41-20 lead thanks to some hustle plays on defense by Emily Wesner and midrange jumpers by Lizzie Camminga. Bear Lake didn't retreat from the battle, however, and closed out the quarter on a 9-0 run to put a little pressure on the Eagles in the fourth quarter.
With Fruitport Calvary nursing a 41-29 advantage to begin the final frame, sophomore standout Kelsey Richards decided to get involved in some close-quarters combat and showcase her low-post moves.
Richards scored on three straight possessions to push the Eagles ahead to a more comfortable margin of 47-29. After that, head coach Brad Richards rested most of the starters and deployed some of his reserve players, who locked down the Lakers' offense for the majority of the quarter to the tune of just four points.
"It was a fun game. It was a game of runs and we really came out strong early," Richards continued. “Kelsey got hot early, but I don't think we responded well to having an early lead. We kind of just stood around for a little bit after that.
"We threw them a punch, and they punched right back. Give our girls credit though, they responded and went on a nice run in the second quarter and that gave us a lot of confidence."
Fruitport Calvary advances to take on No. 1-ranked Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart in Thursday's Class D regional final at Big Rapids Crossroads Academy with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m.
"We're concerned about their speed in transition and their physicality," Richards added about the Irish. "They are so physical that it almost verges on dirty play sometimes. They always make their first fouls of the game really hard and they try and intimidate you with that. We can't be psyched out by what they try and do. We have to just play our style of game and force them to play our game.
"You never know. We're excited to get back into it. Once again, we're one of the last 16 teams remaining in the state, and we like how we're playing right now.
"Let's give it a shot."