Calera headed to 3rd Sweet 16 in last 4 years

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

CALERA – For the third time in the last four years, the Calera Eagles are headed to the Final Four thanks to a 36-point victory against Benjamin Russell in the sub-regional round of the playoffs on Wednesday, Feb. 17.

Calera got a tough test from the Wildcats in the opening quarter, but the Eagles’ depth and athleticism became the difference the rest of the way, outscoring the visitors 62-31 over the final three quarters for an 84-48 victory.

For Benjamin Russell, the season marked continued growth under second-year head coach Jeremy Freeman, who is molding a young roster.

With the win, the Eagles are headed to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row, but will be looking for their first trip to the Elite Eight since the 2017-18 season.

Calera’s offense got off to a solid start with 22 points behind seven different scorers in the opening quarter for an early five-point advantage. But it was the second quarter that made all the difference.

After a 3-pointer from Xzayvion Childress pushed the lead to 10 points at 31-21, Isaiah Green caught fire.

He started with a 6-0 run by himself, which helped the team start the quarter on a 15-4 run to open up a 16-point lead.

The Wildcats made four consecutive free throws to halt the run, but Green came right back with four free throws of his own to score 10 straight for Calera.

Keshawn Haynes added a layup shortly after, but Green went on to add two more layups to end the quarter, the last of which came in the final five seconds, to score 14 of the team’s last 16 points in the quarter.

His effort helped the Eagles go from in front by five at the end of the first to in front by 20 at the half thanks to a 47-27 advantage.

Coming out of the break, the Wildcats looked to trim the deficit with their season on the line, and a 10-4 run to start the quarter helped their case.

They got as close as 14 points at 51-37, but the Eagles loosened up again after that and caught fire again to end the third quarter.

The went on an 18-2 run to finish off the period thanks to six different players scoring points.

That helped the Eagles extend the lead to 30 going into the final quarter.

Leading 69-39, it was going to take a special comeback effort from the Wildcats to have any chance, but the Eagles put to rest any chances with back-to-back dunks to start the final quarter.

That put them in front by 34 early in the final quarter, which was more than enough to ice the game.

Calera scored 15 points in the final quarter on the heels of seven scorers yet again to cap off the 84-48 win.

The Eagles were led by Green with 17 points after his impressive second quarter, while Haynes added 12 points. Beyond that, Rodriguez Smith had nine points, while Duke Chambers, Jordan Eggleston, Childress and Tre Stoutermire all had eight points.

The Wildcats were led by sophomore Quez Thompson with 12 points, while senior Malcolm Simmons finished with nine.

Calera will travel to Saraland Friday night for its Sweet-16 matchup.