Calera refuses to lose

Leading by 20 points in the third quarter doesn’t mean anything in the playoffs. Calera learned that lesson Friday as the Eagles were forced hold off a fourth-quarter run by Dallas County to squeeze out a 96-94 victory at home in the Class 4A Central Sub-Regional.

“They started making some shots. We knew they could shoot the basketball and they rebounded well,” Calera head coach Robert Burdette said. “We made some plays at the end. Sometimes they didn’t look real pretty, but we were able to make enough plays at the end to win.”

It was Dallas County’s rebounding and 3-point shooting that put the Hornets in the game after trailing, 66-46, with 11 minutes left in the game.

Before the game senior leader DeMarcus Dowdell issued a challenge to his team – “Refuse to lose, because we have come too far.” As the lead dropped to eight points late in the third quarter, sophomore Brandon Wells gave a message to Dowdell.

“They were gaining momentum, and he said let’s refuse to lose. That’s when he stepped up,” Dowdell said.

Wells scored 22 points in the second half to match Dowdell for the team lead.

“I just told myself I didn’t want to be the one to lose the game for us,” Wells said. “It’s the playoffs – win or go home, and I decided I didn’t want to go home yet.”

As the Hornets hit 3-pointer after 3-pointer to tie the game, 85-85, Dowdell and Wells tried to stop the bleeding with a steal here and there. The duo combined for seven of the next 11 points while helping to orchestrate the other four.

Calera held off the Hornets in the final minutes, leading by five with seconds left when Dallas County’s DeAndre McIntryre hit a 3-pointer to pull within two points, but time expired on the inbounds pass to advance Calera (26-4) to the Central Regional in Montgomery.

McIntyre finished with 21 points and had three other Hornets follow in double figures: Henry Baker with 16, Frank Crews’ 15 and Andrew Mahon’s 12. Codi Walker had 20 for Calera, while Deondre Haynes had 16.

With four wins needed to win a state championship, Dowdell said the Eagles aren’t giving up.

“Since we’re here, we might as well take advantage,” he said. “The teams are going to get harder, so we need to get a little better on dribbling the ball and eliminate turnovers. When we eliminate turnovers, good things happen.”

Wells agreed.

“We’ve got to tighten up,” Wells said. “We’ve got to get better on the defensive end and turn it up.”

Calera will play Ramsay (13-17) in the first round of the 4A Central Regional at Alabama State University on Thursday at 10:30 a.m.