Calera uses strong 2nd half to surge into Regional semis

By SETH HAGAN | For the Reporter

CALERA – The Calera Eagles didn’t have their typical start on Tuesday, Feb. 13, but finished with a flourish and took a comfortable win over the visiting Beauregard Hornets in Calera’s Sub-Regional matchup by a final score of 94-56.

Finishing the game just six points short of its third consecutive 100-point contest, Calera has now scored 296 points heading into Friday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup with Central Tuscaloosa, but did their damage against Beauregard seemingly in reverse from their last two 100-point explosions.

The Hornets set the tone for the first quarter slowing down the game’s pace from the start by grabbing long offensive rebounds off three-point attempts. Beauregard was able to keep Calera at a distance hitting several shots from long distance.

Eagles’ head coach George Drake called a timeout midway through the quarter to refocus his team and his guys responded with several steals to close the Hornets’ lead to a 16-15 deficit.

“Beauregard is a physical team and they came out playing really hard,” Drake said. “Defensively we weren’t being very aggressive as we were in the past, but once those guys understood we got to get up and pressure to where we wanted they settled in.”

The Hornets continued to play tough into the second quarter, but couldn’t get out of their own way and Calera took full advantage.

Senior C.J. Smith became a catalyst for the Eagles’ turnaround snatching four steals in the first half, part of the 16 turnovers Beauregard committed during that span.

In signature fashion, Calera turned defense into offense scoring 16 of its 42 first-half points off of those turnovers. Smith was especially effective and scored 12 of his game-high 33 points in the second quarter.

The Eagles closed the second quarter much like the first using a 9-2 run after taking the lead for good with 4:12 to go in the half. Their 42-32 halftime lead was the largest of the game to that point.

With blood in the water, Calera’s offensive prowess took over in the third quarter as the Eagles no longer need turnovers to produce points.

Smith and fellow senior Tyler Millin led the onslaught combining for 16 of the Eagles’ 29 points as Calera again closed the quarter on an 11-2 run to take a commanding 71-46 lead.

In a game that was strenuous at best in the first half, the Eagles left no doubt in the fourth quarter.

Calera found the passing lanes once more and a combination of Smith 3-pointers and highlight-reel dunks (including a sensational alley-oop off the backboard from Smith to a trailing Cornelius Brown) finally put away the feisty Hornets.

Between the third and fourth quarter runs the Eagles outscored Beauregard 28-7 during that span.

CJ Smith, Millin, Brown and Jacob Smith all finished in double digits, but CJ’s 33 and an eye-popping seven steals really jumped off the stat sheet to Drake.

“Anytime you look in your point guard’s eyes and see the focus that he’s had over the last three or four games you’re in a really good spot,” Drake said. “He’s been locked in on offense and, most importantly, on the defensive end. We’ve actually called his number the last few games to defend the other team’s best scorer.”

Calera will travel both their boys and girls varsity teams to the Sweet in Montgomery for the first time since the 2005 season.

Both will take on the Falcons of Central Tuscaloosa at Alabama State on Friday, Feb 16, with the boys game tipping off at 1:30 p.m.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.