Calera falls in Elite Eight, senior class leaves a legacy

By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter

MONTGOMERY – A historic season for Calera basketball came to a close in the Elite Eight Tuesday, Feb 23 as the Eagles fell 81-66 to Spanish Fort to come up one game short of the Final Four.

But the Eagles’ 2020-2021 team and this year’s senior class will be remembered for making history as the first team to advance to the Elite Eight at the 6A level. After the game, Calera head coach George Drake, who has led the program to the playoffs six seasons since his return to Calera, spoke about his seniors who saw the postseason every year of their varsity career.

“This is a very special group and it’s unfortunate it ended this way. A great group of seniors that spearheaded this run and it was a remarkable run,” Drake said. “They laid a good foundation for what’s to come. It’s exciting basketball, the style of play that these guys displayed night in and night out.”

The two teams went back back and forth in an entertaining, high-scoring affair in the opening period. Spanish Fort got to the offensive boards to take the early lead as Cameron Keshock scored 10 of his 12 points in the first quarter including a couple of dunks.

Calera senior Duke Chambers kept it close netting six point for Calera, including an amazing inbounds play in which he passed the ball to himself off an opponent’s back before laying it off the backboard for an easy bucket.

Spanish Fort held a 20-15 lead heading into the second quarter, but Calera stepped up its pressure. The Eagles forced five turnovers in the first three minutes of the period for a 6-0 run to take the lead.

Spanish Fort came right back with five straight, but scored two the rest of the quarter as Calera turned up the intensity on defense to another level. The Eagles forced 10 turnovers total and allowed two baskets in the second quarter to take a lead 30-27 lead into halftime.

Jordan Eggleston and Isaiah Green went to work combining for 10 points and several steals to swing the momentum their way.

But after going 1-9 from three-point range in the first half, Spanish Fort came out focused in third quarter with several from beyond the arc.

The Toros scored 33 points, more than their first half total, in the third quarter as Logan Pierce went unconscious for the Toros. The shooting guard buried four treys and totaled 17 of his 29 points in the period to give Spanish Fort breathing room and a 60-44 lead.

“We played well, but shout out to Spanish Fort and their ball club, they did a really good job of coming out there and taking care of business,” Drake said.

Another heavy factor in the second half became free throw attempts. The Toros took 11 in the third quarter and another 13 in the fourth. Fouls stacked up in the fourth quarter as both teams spent a great deal of their time at the charity stripe.

The Eagles hit 7-12 in the fourth, but the ultimate difference came from beyond the arc. Spanish Fort’s third quarter explosion led to a 6-17 mark from long distance while Calera couldn’t match the firepower hitting two of its 17 looks.

That margin overcame 27 turnovers from the Toros.

Eggleston led five Eagles in double digits with 16 points and four steals on the day. Chambers poured in 15 more, three assists and led the team with five steals. Keyshawn Haynes scored 13 points and led the team with eight rebounds, while Trevon Stoutemire added 12 points and seven boards. Green rounded the Eagles out with 10 points. Calera has made the Sweet 16 three of the last four seasons advancing to the Elite 8 twice in that span.