Once the Callaway Cavaliers put the accelerator down, they didn’t look back.
The Cavaliers trailed by six points in the third period of Saturday’s state-tournament opener against Peach County, and things were going south.
One of their best players was whistled for two personal fouls in quick succession, and he was also called for a technical foul, allowing Peach County to take a 52-46 lead.
Beginning with a Braylon Sanders 3-pointer with 2:05 remaining in the third period, though, the Cavaliers were off and running, and the Trojans were left in the dust.
The Cavaliers tied the game by the close of the period, and they went on to score the first 11 points of the fourth quarter to turn what had been a back-and-forth, edge-of-your-seat kind of game into a blowout.
The Cavaliers went on to lead by as many as 19 points on the way to an 82-65 victory.
The Cavaliers have advanced to the second round of the state tournament, and they’ll host Thomson - an 87-78 winner over Savannah High - on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
“The second half, we turned it on,” Callaway coach Terry Hayes said. “We had five fouls in the second half. That made a difference. We stole the ball. We turned the defensive pressure up. They lost their composure.”
The Cavaliers were down 41-38 at the half, and they were in serious foul trouble.
The Cavaliers were whistled for close to 20 fouls in the first half, and most of the key players had two or three fouls.
“We adjusted (to being in foul trouble),” Hayes said. “I told the kids, move your feet, and play a two-three zone. That’s what we did.”
The game was tied 46-46 with 5:20 left in the third period, but the Cavaliers went three minutes without scoring, and the Trojans took a 52-46 lead, and momentum was going their way.
The Cavaliers stayed positive, though, and they soon turned things in their favor.
“I told them, no matter what happens, stay up,” Hayes said. “They did that.”
Sanders’ 3-pointer got the Cavaliers going, and an Ernest Patillo basket cut the Trojans’ lead to one.
Peach County was ahead by three when Sanders drained another 3-pointer with 19 seconds left in the period to tie it at 54-54, and that was the score heading to the final quarter.
Terry Godwin’s basket 10 seconds into the fourth period gave the Cavaliers a 56-54 lead, and they didn’t trail again.
When Dre Martin scored with 5:40 left in the game, the Cavaliers were ahead 65-54, and they’d outscored the Trojans 19-2 in a span of a little more than four minutes.
While the Trojans continued to implode, the Cavaliers were forcing turnover after turnover, leading to easy baskets on the offensive end.
The Cavaliers sped the pace up in the fourth quarter, and the Trojans couldn’t keep up.
“We figured out how their defense was working,” said Martin, who had a huge game with 28 points. “They couldn’t guard anybody one-on-one.”
When Martin scored the second of back-to-back baskets with 52 seconds left, the Cavaliers were up by 19, their biggest lead of the game.
After the Trojans took their six-point lead in the third period, they were outscored 36-13 the rest of the way.
In the fourth quarter alone, the Cavaliers scored 28 points, with most of those points coming on the fast break.
Everyone was getting involved, whether they were coming up with steals, making text-book passes, or putting the ball in the basket.
As free-flowing and smooth as everything looked late, the Cavaliers were struggling to find their rhythm in the first half, and a lot of that had to do with the fouls.
Many of the Cavaliers’ top players spent a lot of time on the bench, and they were unable to get the pace to their liking because of the fouls.
At the half, Patillo, Sanders and Godwin each had three fouls, and numerous other players had two fouls.
The Cavaliers were down by six late in the first half, but Jeremiah Simpson’s 3-pointer made it a 41-38 lead at the break.
“It was tough with the fouls,” Martin said. “You just have to play through it.”
The Cavaliers went up 45-43 a couple of minutes into the third period on a Martin 3-pointer, but they were outscored 9-1 over the next few minutes to fall behind by six.
“We just had to come back and play defense,” Martin said. “We got back in the game.”
That defense limited the Trojans to 13 points after they went up by six.
Now the Cavaliers are one of just 16 teams remaining in Class AAA, and they’ve won a state-tournament game for the first time since 2010 when they made it to the quarterfinals.
“Hard work pays off,” Martin said.