Big-time challenge for Cavaliers
HOGANSVILLE – If the Callaway Cavaliers are going to keep their championship quest alive, they’ll need to find a way to dispatch a South Atlanta team with state-title aspirations of its own.
Callaway, after beating Jefferson 73-58 in a first-round game last week, will host South Atlanta at 5 p.m. today in the second round of the Class AAA state tournament.
The winner will advance to the elite eight in Augusta next week and will be within three wins of a state title, while the loser will be done until next season.
It’s a daunting challenge for Callaway.
South Atlanta has been ranked in the top five in various polls this season, and it is coming off an impressive road win over Johnson-Savannah in the first round.
“Their strength is their size,” Callaway head coach Terry Hayes said. “They pound the ball inside. And then when you sag inside on them, they’ve got two shooting guards that shoot the ball very, very well.”
That was a formula that worked for South Atlanta in a 65-50 win over LaGrange in December.
South Atlanta had three players in double figures, including leading scorer Devonta Pullins, who scored 15 points and made three of his team’s six 3-pointers.
“Their guards are very active,” Hayes said. “They’re veterans. They know exactly what they’re doing. You’re not ranked number five in the state for nothing. They run the floor very well. They’re very athletic. What we’ll try to do is hold them to one shot, and let the chips fall where they may.”
Playing in a big game is nothing new for the Cavaliers and their veteran players.
Callaway has won four consecutive region championships, and it has made it at least as far as the state quarterfinals the past two seasons, and it has won at least one state game for three straight years.
Among the Callaway players who have been in their share of big games over the years is senior Dre Martin, who has been a key contributor since his freshman season.
Seniors Ernest Patillo, Joe Brown and Quantrez Cooper and junior Brayon Sanders have also been in these types of settings plenty over the years, so they’re not likely to shrink when the pressure is the greatest.
If the Cavaliers win tonight, they’ll be in the third round of the state tournament for a third straight year, and they’ll be a step closer to giving the school its first state championship in basketball.
First up, Callaway will need to figure out how to beat a talented and deep South Atlanta team that has already won one road game in the state tournament.
“We must play good defense, and good offense,” Hayes said. ” Move the ball, and make free throws. We’ll just have to play a great game.”
Hayes said it’ll also be important for the bench players to provide some positive minutes to give the starters a break.
“I’ll need the bench to play very well,” Hayes said. “We’ll need the starters to rest sometimes.”
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports