Calera wins tournament title, 10th in a row

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

CALERA – With a nine-game winning streak on the line, the Calera Eagles basketball team took to their home floor on Friday, Dec. 29, in the championship game of the Calera Chick-fil-a Christmas Classic against Francis Marion.

Despite no Cornelius Brown, who is one of the Eagles’ top playmakers, Calera (11-3, 3-0) was able to pull away in an easy 75-65 win for the championship and a 10-game win streak thanks to strong play from Kevin Dowdell and CJ Smith.

Both teams traded 5-0 runs to open the game as Francis Marion took an early 5-0 lead. Calera, however, responded in a big way with a 9-0 run of its own behind an impressive effort from Dowdell on both ends of the floor.

He was able to force a couple of turnovers, which led to easy baskets including a monster slam dunk by Tyler Millin.

They game eventually became tied at 9-9 before Calera went on a 10-0 run to take a 19-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.

If the first quarter wasn’t fast paced enough for Calera, the second had to please Eagles’ head coach George Drake.

While the defense gave up 22 points, the game became much more the style Calera likes to play as they were sprinting back and forth up and down the court.

The Eagles were able to score 27 more points in the quarter as Marion had seemingly no answer on the defensive end of the floor. They were unable to match the speed and length of the Calera players as the Eagles got most of their points inside the paint with ease from their guards or bigs.

While Calera’s lead was 15 points at 46-31, it could have been a lot worse at the halftime break.

The few minutes at the half seemed to get the Eagles out of rhythm to start the fourth quarter.

Francis Marion was able to come out and go on a 10-4 run to open the period, including an 8-0 run at one point. Calera just didn’t look as energized as they did in the first quarter.

It allowed Marion to draw within nine points at 50-41 before Calera turned back up the pressure.

The Eagles were able to get three consecutive baskets off of turnovers or missed shots, which led to easy fast-break conversions. This sparked an 8-0 run for the Eagles to answer Marion’s run as they were ablet o go back up 58-41.

Calera eventually ended the quarter on a 12-6 run to take a commanding 62-47 lead into the final quarter of action.

That run extended into the fourth period as the Eagles started on a 9-3 run to take a 21-point 79-49 lead. Marion was able to fight back late with a few of Calera’s reserves in the game, but the Eagles didn’t relinquish the lead and held on for the 75-65 win.

Smith ended the day with a game-high 21 points, while Dowdell was just behind with 19 points. Millin also had a solid game with 12 points to give Calera three double-figure scorers.

In all, the Eagles had nine different players score in the game, five of which had at least six points.