Calera off to strong start

Published 5:29 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Having a one-track mind is not a bad thing for the Calera Eagles, it’s preferred.

“They play with the mindset that at Calera we play for state championships, and in a lot of ways that helps you,” said Calera boys’ basketball coach Robert Burdette. “Is it pressure? No, it’s expectations. I’d rather have it that way than the expectations be the other way.”

Take that expectation, mix in a strong defense and four players averaging 15 points or more a game, and you’ve found Calera’s secret to success.

Calera’s Dec. 30 win of the Champion Sports Medicine Holiday Shootout, which it hosted, extended it’s record to 14-3. The win rebounded the Eagles from pre-Christmas loses to Wenonah and McGill-Toolen after being ranked No. 4 in Class 4A.

Senior leader DeMarcus Dowdell, who averages 24 points per game, continues to pace the Eagles’ offense, scoring what is believed to be a school record 50 points last week against Chilton County in the tournament semifinal.

“It’s the most since I’ve been here,” Burdette said. “Nobody can ever remember any one scoring more.”

George Drake, now a junior guard at Vanderbilt, scored 48 in 2004 before leading the Eagles to the Class 2A state title in March 2005.

But Dowdell is not alone. Senior Codi Walker led the Eagles in scoring once last week, and he’s not even in the top four on the team. Those other three spots belong to Deondré Haynes’ 18 points per game, Brandon Wells’ 17 points and Maleki Harris’ 15 points.

“We’ve got some guys that we can put on the floor offensively that can score, we’re at the intensity on the defensive end can create those opportunities for us.” Burdette said.

Defense is what Burdette credits his team’s multiple 100-point games this season.

While the expectation of hanging a banner in the gym is constantly in the Eagle players mind, it’s January, and Calera has a long way to go.

“With young players, you wonder what the toll of a long season takes,” Burdette said. “You hope that they get better. I think we’ve gotten better.”

Before continuing area play, Calera opens the spring semester with two games against Shades Mountain, a game against Andalusia on Saturday and another against Childersburg again next Thursday.