Calera girls down Benjamin Russell, advance to sub-regionals

Published 10:58 am Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

CLANTON – After going 1-1 against Benjamin Russell during the regular season, the Calera Eagles broke the series tie in the biggest meeting of the season on Monday, Feb. 6.

Battling in the opening round of the area tournament, Calera picked up a thrilling three-point victory in the final seconds to secure the win.

In a game that was back and forth throughout, the Eagles entered the final quarter trailing by nine points, but they quickly started with a bang when Zoe Lenoir and Jakalyn Johnson hit back-to-back 3-pointers to open the final quarter.

That took a 39-30 game and quickly made it a three-point contest with 7:13 to play.

With Calera now confident and showing the equivalent emotions out of a timeout, the Eagles eventually cut it to one with less than six minutes to play.

Then, after the Wildcats had extended the lead back to three, Johnson got a friendly roll on an NBA range three that eventually found the bottom of the net to even the score with 5:13 to play.

Calera then took the lead shortly after on two Lenoir free throws, as the Eagles had started the first half of the final quarter on a 13-2 run to storm in front.

Benjamin Russell, however, didn’t let the momentum swing shut them down. The Wildcats responded with a 6-0 run that allowed them to regain a 47-43 lead that held up until there was 1:30 left.

The final 1:30 of the game, however, belonged to Calera.

The Eagles’ late comeback was sparked by a steal that led to an and-1 opportunity from Johnson, who stepped up and sank the free throw to make it 47-46 with 1:28 left.

Benjamin Russell then missed the front end of a one-and-one and followed that with a foul on the rebound to send Jhemiah Shelton to the line for Calera. After missing her first free throw, she sank the second one to tie the game at 47-47 with 1:22 left.

The Wildcats then missed two more free throws on their next trip and turned the ball over after an offensive rebound.

And Calera continued to capitalize.

The Eagles got an offensive rebound of their own on the ensuing drive, which led to another trip to the free throw line. Jada Blake went 1-2 on her trip to give Calera the lead with 50 seconds to play.

From there, the teams traded turnovers or offensive fouls, and with 13.2 seconds left Calera inbounded the ball and was able to run the clock all the way down to 1.7 seconds before Lenoir was fouled.

She then stepped to the line and sank both of her free throws in clutch fashion to give Calera a 50-47 victory and keep their season alive, sending the team into celebration mode.

Calera started the game strong, taking a 14-12 lead in the opening quarter, but Benjamin Russell bounced back with a big second quarter to take a 21-19 lead into the break.

The Wildcats only extended the lead in the third quarter, leading by six much of the period and by as many as nine in the final minute.

The Eagles, however, responded the rest of the way and looked more like the team that started the game strong with their 20-point fourth quarter to pick up the win.

With the win, Calera advanced to the area tournament championship on Feb. 8 and will participate in a sub-regional game next week.