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After being held mostly in check throughout the first half, Alexis Smith and the visiting Calvert Cavaliers finally found their groove in the third quarter and pulled away to defeat Chopticon, 51-30, on Monday.

Holding a shaky 11-9 lead at halftime, the Cavaliers (17-2, 9-1 SMAC) outscored the Braves 26-8 in the third quarter to blow open a close game and go on to win their fourth straight game and 12th over the last 13.

Calvert 51, Chopticon 30

Calvert 5 6 26 14

Chopticon 5 4 8 13

Calvert: Smith 18, Gross 9, Weems 9, Butler 5, Graves 5, Thomas 5

Chopticon: Priest 21, Herbert 5, Burns 2, Gross 2

Free throws: Calvert 10-18 (Smith 4-4); Chopticon 6-8 (Priest 6-7)

3-point goals: Calvert 3 (Weems, Gross, Butler); Chopticon 6 (Priest 5, Herbert)

“I don’t know what the problem was,” Calvert head coach Tim Contee said of the first half. “Offensively, I think we were rushing our shots a bit, but defensively I thought we were solid the first half. The second half we picked up our intensity and our shots started falling and that kind of got our momentum going as well as our confidence.”

Smith needed just the first 1 minute 24 seconds of the third period to score eight points and give Calvert the breathing room it needed. The senior drove the baseline and scored on a layup 16 seconds into the quarter and then hit a short-range jumper moments later and was fouled.

Though she missed the free throw, she raced to the bucket, corralled the ball and scored.

Seconds later, she hit a runner to complete an eight-point run. Chopticon’s inbounds pass was intercepted by Jasmine Weems (9 points), who fed teammate Kaiyla Gross (9 points) to put the Cavaliers ahead, 21-9.

“He really helped bring us up and so did our captains,” Calvert’s Tyler Graves (5 points) said of Contee’s halftime speech. “They told us to get our heads in the game and really get pumped up. I think we were kind of rushing things [the first half].”

Smith, who scored just four points in the first half, finished with a team-high 18. Smith is at 1,807 points, needing just seven more to break former Patriot Jen Mitchell’s county career scoring record of 1,813 points.

Calvert’s next game is at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Northern. The Patriots (13-7, 7-3) won their third and fourth games in a row with a 39-36 victory over Chopticon on Friday and a 62-32 win over Leonardtown on Monday to make up a Jan. 25 postponement. Northern will play at La Plata at 6:30 tonight.

“We don’t even talk about it or mention anything about it,” Contee said of the mark. “We just take it one game at a time. Of course, we want her to break the record, but we also have team goals. I think she may be stressing just a little bit but no [it hasn’t really affected her play].”

Calvert outscored Chopticon (15-5, 7-3) 14-13 in the final quarter to secure the win.

Daijah Thomas added five points and a team-high 13 rebounds for the Cavaliers.

“They came out and turned it up a notch defensively and made some big shots,” Chopticon head coach Joe Cook said. “We have trouble scoring against teams that play tough defense so we have to overcome that. I thought overall I was really proud of our effort and what we did.”

The loss overshadowed a strong night for Braves’ junior guard Tyaira Priest, who drained five three-pointers and finished with a game-high 21 and added three rebounds and a team-high three steals and three assists. She also hit six of seven from the free-throw line.

“I like to work it mainly inside to my bigs,” Priest said, “but they took that away so I tried to work it outside with my guards.”

The two teams played defensively throughout the first half with each creating numerous turnovers. Some shooting struggles also contributed to the 5-all tie following the first quarter and the combined 20 points by halftime.

“I think it was Calvert; their defense is outstanding,” Cook said of the low-scoring half. “I didn’t think we played that bad even though we turned the ball over, but we went into the half down 11-9 so we were happy with that. Tonight, it was just their defense was just outstanding. As a coach, you like to see that from every team every night and they have it. That makes teams look bad and it made us look bad at times but again I think we got more comfortable at the end shooting the basketball. After we broke their press, we didn’t really attack so we have to attack a little bit more.”

Priest said pride played a large part in the Braves’ first-half play.

“I’m very happy with the play we played and that we came out ready for them,” she said. “I think we were more excited we were that close. We all knew we could hang with them so we all came out with the effort that we didn’t want them to beat us on our home court.”

But Priest also knows exactly what the Braves must do in order to snap their two-game losing streak.

“Our defense keeps teams low and on offense if we could just slow down a little…,” she said, trailing off. “We need to put more points on the board. We need to get out of the 30s [point total].”

Chopticon will host Westlake at 6:30 tonight.

mreid@somdnews.com