Calera downs Chelsea to keep season alive

By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter

HELENA – The Calera Eagles are moved on to the Class 6A Area 8 championship after holding off a scrappy Chelsea Hornets team Wednesday, Feb 5, which also allowed the Eagles to punch their ticket to the sub-regional round of the playoffs.

The Eagles never led by more than 15 points, but they held a steady lead throughout, which allowed them to hold on for a52-46 win after staving off a strong comeback attempt from the Hornets.

Calera (17-8, 4-3) came out with a bang, as Parris Whatley was white hot to start the night. The senior point guard cut and slashed his way through the Hornets’ defense with ease, scoring eight of the Eagles’ 18 points in the opening quarter of play.

Chelsea (12-18, 2-5) struggled to get going early on, as Caleb Moore was the only Hornet to score more than once with baskets coming from just two other starters.

Up 18-8 after one, the Eagles cooled off on offense but maintained their salty demeanor on defense. Chelsea didn’t get to the free throw line until the last two minutes of the half, and even then could only convert one of their three attempts.

Derrick Edwards’ last second score before the half gave Calera a comfortable 27-15 lead. Chelsea’s defense improved after halftime, but still struggled to get the offense going.

Moreover, Calera’s turnovers were a number of unforced errors, but the Hornets couldn’t convert them into points on the other end.

Jacob Tierney scored four of Chelsea’s eight points in the quarter, but also ran into foul trouble slowing his impact on the game. Calera didn’t fare much better, but still managed to keep the Hornets at bay, as Keshawn Haynes drained a couple baskets to maintain a 36-23 lead.

The Eagles also did a good job of working the clock down, as George Drake’s squad was in no hurry with a double-digit advantage.

The Hornets’ defense finally began to see dividends in the fourth quarter and doubled their score total in the process by forcing 10 turnovers and another 23 points, including four shots from long range.

Down 44-29, Chelsea put up a last-ditch effort to save their season with a 9-0 run to get them back in the game. However, Whatley was big again down the stretch for Calera scoring 10 of his game-high 20 points in the final quarter and hit all four of his free throws, while the Hornets had mixed results at the line going 5-for-11 in the final eight minutes.

Extra possessions were big down the stretch as well, as the Eagles scored three baskets off offensive rebounds in the waning moments.

Jordan Eggleston also had a big fourth quarter scoring seven of his 15 points to preserve the win for the Eagles. The two All-Area performers scored every point in the final quarter for Calera.

Caleb Moore led the way for Chelsea with 13 points while Andrew Messier chipped in eight points, respectively. Calera will advance to play the Pelham Panthers in the area championship on Friday, Feb. 7.