With leading scorer Jessica Ritchey nursing a sprained ankle, Chopticon girls basketball coach Tony Lisanti needed another player to take over Friday night against host Calvert.
Junior guard Shonta Countiss was the one to do it, scoring seven of her game-high 21 points in the third quarter and leading Chopticon to a 45-38 victory over Calvert in a Southern Maryland Athletic Conference game in Prince Frederick. Chopticon won its fifth straight game, broke Calvert's three-game winning streak and stayed a game behind first-place Northern in the SMAC standings.
"Shonta is a streak shooter. When she's on, there's nobody who can stop her," Lisanti said. "If anything, she didn't shoot the ball enough tonight."
Chopticon (9-4, 6-1) led, 31-20, midway through the third quarter, but Calvert (5-8, 4-3) went on a 10-2 run to cut the lead to 34-32 with 1 minute 58 seconds left in the quarter. Sophomore guard Kara Hickman did much of the damage, scoring eight of her team-high 10 points and grabbing two of her six rebounds.
Chopticon pushed the lead to 38-32 when Countiss hit a short jumper and junior forward Candice Rose (13 rebounds) made two free throws, but Calvert's Chrissy White hit a long three-pointer in the closing seconds to cut the lead to 38-35 heading into the fourth quarter.
"We played well in the third quarter, but we missed a lot of easy shots, and we didn't do the things we had to do to beat them," Calvert Coach Frank Moore said. "Defensively, we played well in spurts, but we gave [Countiss] too many open shots and she killed us."
Countiss's biggest shot came early in the fourth quarter. After a steal by Rose, Countiss took a pass from Tia Briscoe and nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Braves a 41-35 lead.
Calvert got as close as 41-38, but with 2:29 left to play, Ritchey (17.1 points per game) entered the game for the first time. She did not score, but her play seemed to inspire the Braves, who held Calvert scoreless the rest of the way. Briscoe and senior forward Crystal Herbert (seven rebounds) then put the game away by hitting four free throws in the final 20 seconds.
"I didn't want to play Jessica, but she's my heart and soul, and I needed her," Lisanti said. "I know I killed her stats, but we needed her calming influence."
Countiss, who averaged 10 points per game last season, was the team's calming influence in the first half. Her three-pointer and Briscoe's two short jumpers gave Chopticon a 24-16 lead midway through the second quarter.
"We knew [Countiss] could shoot, we just couldn't get to her," Moore said. "We were always a step slow to her, and she hit some big shots. . . . She was the difference in this game."
Countiss finished with six rebounds, four steals and two assists.
"I like shooting the three-pointer. It's one of my favorite shots," Countiss said. "I don't always hit them in the game, but tonight, my shot was on."
Chopticon (9-4, 6-1)--Briscoe 3 5-6 11, Countiss 7 3-4 21, Herbert 2 2-4 6, Graves 0 1-2 1, George 1 0-0 2, Thompson 1 0-0 2, Rose 0 2-2 2, Ritchey 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 13-18 45.
Calvert (5-8, 4-3)--Brown 4 0-0 8, White 2 0-0 5, Bumgarner 2 0-0 4, Peel 0 3-4 3, Fritter 2 0-0 4, Houst 2 0-2 4, Hickman 4 2-4 10. Totals 16 5-10 38.
Halftime: Chopticon, 27-20.
Three-point goals: Chopticon 4 (Countiss 4); Calvert 1 (White).
CAPTION: Calvert's Renee Brown, left, wrestles a rebound away from Chopticon center Candice Rose on Friday. Rose grabbed 13 rebounds of her own for the Braves.
CAPTION: Calvert's Jen Peel, left, gets to a loose ball ahead of teammate Danielle Fritter and Chopticon's Candice Rose. The loss snapped Calvert's three-game winning streak.