Calera handles Opelika to advance to 6A Sweet 16

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

CALERA – Last year, the Calera Eagles saw their basketball season end in heartbreaking fashion when they traveled to Opelika and lost to the Bulldogs by three points, but fast forward to the same situation in 2020, and the Eagles enacted revenge.

That 82-79 loss a season ago kept Calera from advancing to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row, but taking on the Bulldogs again this year in a sub-regional matchup, the Eagles used that as motivation and scored 18 or more points in three of four quarters to pick up a dominant 76-61 victory to get back to the regional tournament in Montgomery.

Calera had its lowest scoring quarter in the first period with 14 points, but still ended up outscoring the visiting Bulldogs by one point to take an early lead.

Even in that lower-scoring quarter, Paris Whatley posted six points for the Eagles, while Xzayvion Childress added four, as each paved the way for a strong offensive night.

Now warmed up, the Eagles took flight in the second quarter behind the tune of 23 offensive points. Whatley, Duke Chambers, Jamarius Ford and Jordan Eggleston all had at least four points in the quarter, including eight from Chambers and six from Eggleston.

But a big reason for that offensive success was due to the effort on the defensive end, where Calera held Opelika to just eight points on three made field goals. With the low field goal percentage, the Eagles were able to push the ball on the fast break and find easier baskets, as defense led to points.

That helped the Eagles take a 37-21 lead into the break with all of the momentum on their side.

While the defense wasn’t as sharp coming out of the break for Calera, the Eagles were still able to keep up their offensive firepower. Opelika came out and scored 20 points in the quarter looking to battle back, but couldn’t make up much ground with Calera’s offense posting 18 more points behind seven points from Childress.

With the continued offensive success, the Eagles continued to hold a strong lead at 55-41 with just one quarter remaining.

Opelika’s offense continued to do its part in the fourth quarter, posting its second 20-point quarter in a row, but the Bulldogs had no answer on the defensive end.

Calera came out and posted 21 points in the final quarter thanks in large part to a solid 10-12 mark from the free throw line, which iced the 15-point victory.

Chambers was particularly strong in the fourth, knocking down six of his eight free throws, while Eggleston and Derrick Edwards were each 2-2.

Calera was led by 17 points from Eggleston in the win, while Chambers and Childress each posted 15 points. Beyond that, Whatley added 12 points, 10 of which came in the first half.

The Eagles will take on either Carver or Eufala in the Sweet 16 on Friday, Feb. 14, at 10:30 a.m. in Montgomery.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.