Calera girls wrap up best season in school history

If you ask Calera Lady Eagles Head Coach Scott Gafford, or any girl on the team, for that matter, how the 2001-02 season went, he would say he wanted more.

&uot;Midway through the season, I was sitting there wondering how we would ever finish above .500,&uot; Gafford said. &uot;But our girls stepped up and found a way to win.

The team finished the season with 20 wins – the winningest record in school history.

The Lady Eagles also made its first-ever trip to the regional tournament and its first-ever showing in the regional finals.

Five points kept the team from another historical feat – a trip to the Final Four.

Gafford and the Lady Eagles won the first game of the regional tournament in Mobile, defeating Highland Home 46-45 behind a heroical winning shot from Laquarius Wilson.

Also playing the role of hero was eighth-grader Shavania Dowdell. Dowdell blocked two shots in the final eight seconds that would have given the Flying Squadron the win.

&uot;They (Highland Home) had three chances to win the game in the last eight seconds,&uot; Gafford said. &uot;They had three shots, and Shavania blocked two of them and had a hand in the face of the shooter on the last one.&uot;

Dowdell finished the game with 16 points, 12 rebounds and six blocked shots.

Marie Burns was also in double figures with 10 points and four rebounds.

Gafford said the win over Highland Home was a special one since he coached there for two years.

&uot;I really wanted to beat them because I had coached there before, but also because a win put us in the regional finals,&uot; Gafford said. &uot;It was really emotional.

&uot;The girls played their hearts out.&uot;

In the finals, Dowdell put on a show with 27 points, 15 rebounds and six blocked shots.

Dowdell is up for Class 2A girls Player of the Year honors – the first of probably many nominations and possible honors in her young career.

Gafford said the biggest obstacle for his team in the finals was McIntosh’s quickness.

&uot;They just had too much quickness,&uot; Gafford said. &uot;We adjusted to it as much as we could, and we played them dead even in the second half. They just killed us in the second quarter.

&uot;They could fly up and down the court and were quick from top to bottom. They could hit running jumpers off the dribble and were just very athletic.&uot;

The Lady Eagles were winning 12-9 at the end of the first period before getting outscored 16-8 in the second.

&uot;We had way too many turnovers,&uot; Gafford said, &uot;especially in the second half.&uot;

The Lady Eagles committed 27 turnovers in all – 17 in the first half alone.

The Lady Eagles ended the season with a 20-6 record