As the Callaway Cavaliers gathered in their locker room at the half of Tuesday’s game against LaGrange High, head coach Terry Hayes encouraged his players to “keep fighting” until the clock reached zero.
“I told them at halftime, we still have another 16 minutes to play. Just keep playing,” Hayes said. “I told them, don’t get down, just keep fighting. You never know what can happen.”
That was sound advice when the Cavaliers were down by three points at the half, and it also held true when they were facing an 11-point deficit with time winding down in the fourth period.
The Cavaliers staged a furious comeback, outscoring the Grangers 17-3 over the game’s final four minutes to pull off a dramatic 73-68 victory.
“Tonight proved, you just keep playing,” Hayes said. “You keep playing until it’s over.”
Trailing by 12 points at the start of the fourth period, the Cavaliers had climbed to within six points with 5:12 left in the game.
A 3-pointer by LaPerion Perry and a bucket by Walter Shelton put the Cavaliers back in an 11-point hole, though, and time was running out.
The Cavaliers weren’t done, far from it.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Braylon Sanders and Dre Martin got the Cavaliers within three with 2:40 remaining, and moments later, Sanders scored to make it a one-point game.
With 2:11 left to play, Ernest Patillo was fouled, and he went to the line with a chance to give his team the lead.
Patillo knocked down both free throws, and the Cavaliers led 66-65 after scoring 12 straight points.
Derieko Smith made one of two free throws for LaGrange, and it was tied 66-66 with 1:52 remaining.
The Cavaliers didn’t waste any time in reclaiming the lead, with Joe Brown’s dunk with 1:40 left in the game giving his team a 68-66 lead while bringing the Callaway fans to their feet.
With one minute remaining, Smith was fouled while scoring, and he made the free throw to convert the three-point play to put the Cavaliers ahead 71-66.
The Grangers got within three on a basket by Perry with time running out.
Then after a Callaway turnover, LaGrange had a chance to tie it, but the 3-pointer didn’t connect.
Terry Godwin made a pair of free throws for Callaway with three seconds left to cap the scoring and seal the victory.
“We hit some big shots, some big threes, got a couple of big steals, got a couple of stops, and that was it,” Hayes said.
The Cavaliers trailed 12-10 after the first period, and they were down 29-26 at the half.
LaGrange outscored Callaway 25-18 in the third period to turn it into a 54-44 game heading to the final quarter.
The Grangers maintained their torrid offensive pace early in the fourth quarter, but the Cavaliers were finally able to start getting some defensive stops, and that made a big difference.
“That pressure paid off,” Hayes said. “The (defensive) rotation worked real well. They did a good job.”
Martin paced the Cavaliers with 21 points, and Brown and Sanders added 14 and 11 points, respectively.
Godwin chipped in with 10 points, and Patillo added eight points.
Callaway will return to the court today for a road game against Heard County.