Calera holds off Wildcats

When it comes to the hard court, there is much to be said about the rivalry between the Shelby County Wildcats (17-5) and the Calera Eagles (21-4). It’s a rivalry that has seen each other taken behind the proverbial woodshed ample times and a match up that has wowed fans with buzzer beaters.

Moreover, it is a history of games between two neighboring schools that know each other better than they know the script on a basketball. Their final meeting for the 2008-09 season was just another one for the ages.

With the Wildcat faithful screaming in his right ear, Jeremy Hyde sank two pressured packed free throws with five seconds remaining to seal the deal for the second-ranked Class 4A Eagles in the midst of a capacity crowd Tuesday night, defeating the eighth-ranked Class 5A Wildcats, 74-72, on their home court.

“I was hoping and praying to God that I would be able to make them and it came through for me,” Hyde said. “This was a big win for us, and I hope it helps us get hyped up for the playoffs.”

A last ditched effort by the Wildcats’ Hakeem Lilly, who finished the game with 19 points, rimmed out as time expired.

It was pressure packed all night for the two neighboring schools as both teams found promise in the full court press on the defensive side. Turnovers, careless mistakes and errant passes were prevalent on both sides, but so was speed.

Up and down the floor they went with the Eagles holding the advantage over the Wildcats going into to the intermission with a 39-35 lead without Deondré Haynes scoring a point.

Coming out of the half, SCHS kept it’s poise to pull the game even, 53-53, with six minutes remaining, outscoring the counterpart in the third quarter. However, Haynes answered the call in the second half with 18 points highlighted by sinking two free throws to give the Eagles a two point lead with 40 ticks remaining on the game clock.

Lilly evened the count again with two free throws shortly thereafter, but Hyde being in the right place at the right time after two missed Eagle free throws allowed him to go to the line to be the hero. The rest is history.

Eagles head coach Robert Burdette has seen this rivalry firsthand and knows how special it is and, at times, how thrilling it can be.

“This is a rivalry that is so fierce in the competition aspect,” Burdette said. “It’s typical of everything that you want in a rivalry and the score is a prime example of that. Great clean game, great atmosphere tonight and we just hit some free throws at the end and they missed a shot. What more could you ask for?”

SCHS saw their chances to pull off a win come and go all night. With turnovers and missed opportunities, the Wildcats still had their chance at a curtain call at the end but to no avail.

Tae Lewis led SCHS with a game high 22 points and Jordan Simon added 10 points.

Codi Waller assisted Haynes with 14 points on the night for the Eagles.