Two for Final 4 Burdette’s boys return to BJCC

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 2, 2004

The Calera Eagles have become an early-March fixture at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Complex.

The Class 2A, boys-basketball power thumped Wicksburg and Randolph County in last week’s southeast region tournament, paving the way for a third straight appearance at the BJCC.

The Eagles (30-1) have made it to the AHSAA Final 4 in eight of the last nine seasons.

&uot;I think everybody approaches it differently,&uot; said Calera head coach Robert Burdette. &uot;Some teams are happy to be there and some are very business-like. I think our kids are confident. Some of them have played in two state championship games already.&uot;

But the Eagles aren’t taking anything for granted, Burdette said.

&uot;They’re smart enough not to underestimate anyone – they know the game still has to be played,&uot; he said. &uot;But our bunch has played well.&uot;

Calera was scheduled to play Altamont (22-6) yesterday at 5:30 p.m. Results were unavailable at presstime.

If the Eagles needed a reminder of how tough Altamont can be, they didn’t have to look any farther than their Feb. 7 matchup with the Knights.

Altamont handed the Eagles their only loss of the season, winning 76-68 at Calera High School. The first matchup between the two teams was decided in overtime as the Eagles topped the Knights 72-70 at Altamont.

Calera earned the trip to the Final 4 by storming through the southeast regional tournament at Troy State University, beating Randolph County 79-48 in last Friday’s championship game.

The Eagles opened the game strong defensively but couldn’t seem to capitalize on forced turnovers, shooting just 44 percent from the floor in the first half.

Randolph County turned the ball over 16 times in the first half.

&uot;Sometimes your shots are just not going in,&uot; Burdette said. &uot;We talked about how we had to convert easy opportunities.&uot;

Calera did just that, forcing 16 more turnovers in the second half and exploding on offense with a 50-point effort. The Eagles shot nearly 66 percent from the floor in the second half to claim the victory.

&uot;That’s kind of been a characteristic of this team,&uot; Burdette said.

&uot;Coming out strong in the second half with lots of energy as the other team starts to tire.&uot;

Solid play from the bench has been a key factor in the Eagles ability to put teams away late.

&uot;Any time you can give your starters a rest they will have more energy in the second half,&uot; Burdette said.

&uot;They come off the bench and have intensity.&uot;

Junior George Drake led the Eagles with 26 points and seven rebounds in the region championship game while T.J. Green and C.J. Pearson eached reached double figures for Calera.

Dusty Downs anchored the Eagles defense with seven steals.

&uot;Having Dusty Downs is a pretty big factor,&uot; Burdette said. &uot;He’s pretty active.

Calera entered Friday’s championship game after defeating Wicksburg 78-56 last Tuesday.

Drake again led the Eagles with 22 points and seven rebounds while Glynn Dowdell scored 21 for Calera. Downs and Pearson each scored 13 points with Downs recording seven assists