Calera tops Shelby County in high-scoring opener

Published 5:15 pm Wednesday, November 14, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

COLUMBIANA – A combined 172 points between the Calera Eagles and Shelby County Wildcats led to a lot of action between the two as they opened their 2018-19 basketball seasons against one another in Columbiana on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

Each quarter of the game was decided by four points or less, but despite a 23-23 tie in the final quarter, the Wildcats were on the wrong end of the other three quarters with Calera edging them out I each to pull off a fun-filled opening win by a final score of 91-81.

Both teams had at least three double-figure scorers, and each showed off in the first quarter, leading to a thrilling start.

Tae Whetstone, Nathan Bates and Larz Balfonz each had at least three points for the Wildcats in the first quarter, which led to a strong 18-point quarter.

Calera, however, answered with 20 points thanks to strong play from returning stars like C.J. Smith and Cornelius Brown, which gave them a two-point edge at the end of the opening period.

Shelby County bettered its first-quarter score with a strong 23-point second quarter as the offense continued to click thanks to 17 combined points from Whetstone, Bates and R.J. Straate.

Again, the Eagles were able to answer with even more offense and posted their best quarter of the game to extend their lead. They went on to outscore the Wildcats 27-23 in the quarter, which led to a 47-41 lead.

Calera continued its strong offensive play coming out of the locker room in the second half, as the Eagles posted their third consecutive quarter with at least 20 points.

Shelby County did its best to keep pace, but was yet again outscored slightly 21-17 in the frame despite six more points from Whetstone, who had brought his total to 14 points through three quarters.

The Wildcats went into the final quarter trailing 68-58 and tried to will themselves back with an aggressive Whetstone, who went to the line several times in the period going 9-10 from the stripe with 11 points in the quarter.

Calera, however, had taken advantage of its consistent aggressive offensive nature and earned more trips to the line as well to play to a 23-23 tie in the period, which led to the final score of 91-81 in a game that went up and down the court.

The biggest key in the game was free throw shooting.

While Shelby County earned 27 free throw shots and made a 59 percent of them, which was a much higher percentage than Calera, the Eagles nearly doubled the trips and made almost as many free throws as the Wildcats got attempts at 23-48.

That aggressive nature by the Eagles was the difference and led to three different scorers in double figures.

Smith led Calera with 26 points on 9-of-20 shooting and added six rebounds, three assists and three steals, while turning the ball over just two times from the point guard position. Brown finished with 19 points on 5-of-15 shooting, but was 8-14 from the free throw line.

As a team, the Eagles didn’t shoot all that well from the field at 38 percent overall and just 19 percent from beyond the arc, but the free throws tilted the scale in their favor.

Shelby County was led by Whetstone with 25 points, while Bates added 15. Straate and Balfonz also finished in double figures with 12 and 11, respectively.