Calera edges out Briarwood in thrilling game

Published 11:01 am Friday, November 30, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – Briarwood did everything it could to overcome two large deficits against the Calera Eagles on Thursday, Nov. 29, in front of its home crowd, but the Eagles got a strong effort from Cornelius Brown in the final quarter as well as clutch free throw shooting form C.J. Smith to hang on for a slim 66-59 victory.

With Calera coming in as an offensive team and Briarwood a defensive team, it was expected for the Lions to slow the game down and for Calera to try and speed it up.

Instead, it seemed as if both were trying to slow it down in the first quarter, as the defenses for both teams controlled things early.

Briarwood wasn’t helped out by a couple of missed layups early in the first quarter, but Calera’s full-court defense, while it yielded fouls at times, really affected the Lions as well.

The Eagles limited Briarwood to just six points in the period, while Calera was able to put up 10 points against a physical Lions’ defense.

While the output wasn’t what the Eagles are used to offensively, they were able to start clicking on that end of the floor in the second period despite point guard C.J. Smith forced to the bench due to foul trouble.

Briarwood eventually got within two points early in the period at 13-11, but then Calera went on a 9-0 run thanks to offensive rebounds, earned trip to the free throw line and strong drives to the basket.

Now down 22-11, the Lions answered with three points from Hayden Lamey, all at the free throw line, and one more jumper near the end of the half to bring themselves back into the game by trimming the lead to 24-16 at the half.

The physical nature of both defenses was on display in first half with the two teams combining for 20-plus fouls, which didn’t allow either team to run away, but at the same time got each team off balance at times in the half.

That completely changed in the second half.

Both teams were still playing aggressive defense, but the officials started calling even more fouls than were being called in the first half, which not only led to several free throw attempts but an adjustment from the players defensively allowing more points to be scored as many didn’t want to pick up their third or fourth fouls.

The Lions were starting to come back early in the quarter, but Calera seemed to have an answer for the first few baskets Briarwood hit.

Eventually, however, Jack Dicen’s second 3-pointer of the quarter brought Briarwood to an even 29-29 tie to erase the eight-point deficit coming into the half.

One possession later, Briarwood stormed in front to take the lead with a layup that was part of a 15-5 run to start the quarter thanks to more aggressive drives to the basket.

The Lions eventually extended their lead to 34-30 before Calera went on a 7-0 run to take the lead right back after an and-1 from Cornelius Brown and a 3-pointer shortly after that put the Eagles back in front 37-34.

Alex Key then answered in a big way with a 3-pointer that tied the game right back. The final two minutes went back and forth with Briarwood taking a 40-39 lead before Calera came back just before the end of the quarter and took a 41-40 lead heading to the final period.

Que Brown.

The senior went on an aggressive spree in the final quarter that was part of a quick 17-6 run thanks to two 3-pointers an and-1 and five more free throw attempts, which gave Calera a 58-46 advantage with just more than three minutes left in the game.

Briarwood, however, had put too much into battling back once and wasn’t ready to fold over and quit just yet.

The Lions slowly chipped away at the deficit thanks to four consecutive free throws that made it an eight-point game, before Dicen hit a crucial 3-pointer to truly give his team life by cutting Calera’s lead to 58-53

The two teams traded baskets after that before an offensive rebound and put back by Chance Beard cut the Eagles’ lead down two more points to 60-57 with 57 seconds left.

That, however, was as close as the Lions were able to get.

Briarwood couldn’t convert on its next offensive possession, which forced the Lions to start fouling.

Smith went on to go 4-4 from the line over the final 40 seconds to help seal the 66-59 win for the Eagles.

Brown led the way for the Eagles with 28 points, while Smith played a big part in closing it out with six points in the final two minutes of the game. Nine different players scored in all for Calera.

The two teams combined to shoot 72 free throws with Briarwood going 23-32 from the line and Calera going 20-41 from the stripe.

The Lions were led by Dicen with 16 points thanks to three 3-pointers and a 6-7 mark from the free throw line, while Beard and Lamey posted 11 points each. All 11 of Lamey’s points came in the second half, as he really seemed to turn into a dominant player with more belief.