The aforementioned object came in the form of a well-executed defensive game plan by the Warriors, who tasked Meghan Heiss with defending the Eagles’ leading scorer, while double and triple teaming whenever they could, forcing FCC’s supporting cast into the spotlight.
Richards and company did enough in the first half to keep things close, limiting turnovers and getting to the foul line to hold a 21-15 deficit at halftime.
The third quarter was all Warriors, as they put their game together and outscored the hosts 16-4 to pull away for an eventual 51-29 victory.
“It was a slow-paced game,” said WMC head coach Jeremy Goorman. “In the second half, we just got a little more patient on the offensive end and started shooting at a higher percentage.
“Stopping Richards was a team effort. Meghan did a great job. When you look at her, there isn’t much there, but she is 100 percent heart and will guard anyone. She took that role very seriously this week.
“We were also double and triple teaming (Richards). I told the girls that she is going to shoot no matter what. If we have two or three girls on her, nine times out of 10 she won’t make it. They played smart and were able to pull it off and cut down on the fouls over the course of the game.”
The tough defense on Richards forced shots from elsewhere on the court, which just wouldn’t fall for the Eagles.
“That’s a nice non-conference game for us. I have a lot of respect for what they do and they obviously have a lot of respect for a few of our players in the way they guarded them,” FCC head coach Brad Richards said. “We shot the ball very poorly. We missed free throws, we missed shots in the paint. We got a lot of good looks in the first half and only had five turnovers and only scored 16 points. I thought, ‘How could it get any worse,’ and it got worse.”
Richards managed to lead the Eagles with 12 points, just ahead of Lizzie Cammenga with 10, Kyra Hamilton with five and Brionna Johnson with two.
Taylor Folkema led the Warriors with 16, ahead of Anna Sytsema with 12 and Kayla Johnson and Heiss with seven each.
WMC picked up most of their points inside the paint and in transition, as Calvary couldn’t match their speed and physicality. Fighting for rebounds and sprinting to try and trap or stop the break took a toll on Calvary over the course of the game.
“They have superior size and strength,” Richards said. “I don’t know if that wore us down because our kids had to work extra hard, but they were not ready to run in that second half.
The physical play took a toll on the Warriors, as well, in the form of early foul trouble for Sytsema. Solid play from her teammates minimized the damage.
“One girl that really surprised me tonight was Kayla Johnson,” Goorman said. “She kept us in the game in that first half with some big buckets. She had a 3-pointer, a couple big rebounds, and a few layups. Those points and Taylor’s (Folkema) scoring and defense made up for Anna Sytsema being out a bit.”
The physicality and speed of the Warriors multiplied in the third quarter as they brought their attention to detail from the defensive to the offensive side of the floor and put the pedal down in transition.
“Sometimes, in life, when you feel like you are being bullied it impacts your existence,” Richards said. “I think they took us out of our comfort zone a bit. You could see we had kids get banged up a bit in the first half and I think their athleticism hurt us in the second half.”
“We got some fast break looks in the first half, but we weren’t good at spacing,” Goorman said. “In the second half, we really got the transition going and got to run a few more sets once we got there.”
Down the stretch, Calvary continued to fight for their home crowd, but it was obvious they were outmatched by the now 7-0 Warriors.
“To be undefeated at this point is fantastic,” Goorman said. “At the beginning of the season every coach kind of counts wins, but you expect to drop a couple. This was a test for us tonight. We are in the meat of our schedule now.”
The fight was evident for coach Richards, who now turns his attention to winning an eighth consecutive Alliance League title and a fresh run at the state tournament.
“This will be good for us,” Richards said. “Everyone will want this tape come playoff time. We have a lot to play for in the conference season now and hopefully a run through the district tournament after that.”