The most fun show in basketball: Calera dazzles in Sweet-16 win

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

MONTGOMERY – Having scored 296 combined points in their last three games, the Calera Eagles were going into their Sweet 16 matchup on Friday, Feb. 16, at the Dunn-Oliver Acadome in Montgomery with Central-Tuscaloosa carrying a load of confidence.

Calera had scored 100, 102 and 94 points, respectively, in its last three games to pick up an area championship and a Sub-Regional win.

The Eagles brought that flashiness and exuberance to the table against the Falcons as well and started the game with a fast-paced and fun-to-watch style of play that they have become known for.

It led to a 20-6 lead right out of the gates and a lead they didn’t relinquish the rest of the game. While Central came back to tie the game on a couple of occasions, they never did lead the entire way as the Eagles picked up a 69-59 win to advance to the Elite Eight.

Calera’s dominant start featured an 11-0 run right out of the gate and it was evident the Eagles were having fun, clapping and laughing as they took advantage of the atmosphere.

Their 20-6 lead was challenged, however, in the second quarter when they allowed the Falcons to chip away at the lead.

Central went on a 16-9 run during the period and ended the quarter on an 11-3 run to cut Calera’s lead to seven, 29-22, at the half.

The Falcons used that momentum to spark a fire in the third quarter. They came out and hit three consecutive 3-pointers in the first 1:15 of the period to tie the game at 31-31. Central tied the game again at 33-33, before a back-and-forth affair ensued.

During the constant action, however, the Falcons were never able to take the lead. They did end up hitting another 3-pointer to give them four in the first 3:29 of the quarter, but Calera was able to maintain around a five- to six-point lead throughout the quarter.

A big reason for that was Cornelius Brown draining two free throws and back-to-back 3-pointers as well as throwing a huge pass from the backcourt all the way up to Tyler Millin for an easy dunk. That was all part of a quick 8-3 run for Calera that gave them a little bit of breathing room again.

Central was able to bounce back and battled to cut the lead to just six, 50-44, heading to the final quarter of play.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Falcons were able to cut the deficit back to five points after an and-1 brought the Calera lead to 53-48 with 6:10 left.

Nothing changed over the next two minutes of action as each team had two points to keep that five-point lead for the Eagles and also keep Central in the game with 4:15 remaining.

That’s when Calera started playing its fun, free and loose style of basketball. It led to a C.J. Smith layup and a couple of monster dunks from Millin. With the Eagles playing like themselves again, they were able to eventually extend the lead back up to 12 at 62-50.

Thanks to some good free throw shooting from Brown down the stretch, Calera was able to maintain that lead over the final two minutes to pick up the 69-59 win.

Millin ended the game with a double-double performance, posting 15 points and 13 rebounds, while also adding three blocks.

Brown led all scorers with 23 points, while also adding six boards and three blocks. C.J. Smith added 15 points and Kevin Dowdell had 12 to give Calera four double-figure scorers.

Jacob Smith ended the game with eight rebounds, four points and two blocks.

The Eagles shot 40.7-percent from the field. They were 5-13 from 3-point range and 16-28 from the free throw line.

Calera will now take on Sylacauga on Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 5:45 p.m. with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com