Sanders hits buzzer-beater for Callaway
By Kevin Eckleberry
HOGANSVILLE – With the game, and the season on the line, Callaway’s Braylon Sanders was up to the challenge.
Callaway had the ball in the closing moments of Friday’s state-tournament game against Coosa, and the score was deadlocked at 60-60.
Sanders, who has been a part of so many epic moments over the years in basketball and football, took the inbounds pass and drove toward the basket.
As a defender approached, Sanders let the ball go from about five feet away, and it settled into the net to give the Cavaliers the lead.
For good measure, Sanders then swatted away Coosa’s inbounds pass, and the clock ran out.
The Cavaliers walked away with a 62-60 victory, and they’re one of the 16 teams still standing in the Class AA state tournament.
Callaway head coach Terry Hayes said the plan at the end was for Sanders to drive to the basket, and that’s just what he did.
“I knew I had time to go to the goal and get a layup, or a jumper,” Sanders said.
Sanders lofted the ball over the out-stretched arm of a Coosa defender, and it found nothing but net.
“It felt good,” Sanders said. “I knew it was going in right after it left my hand.”
Sanders’ basket capped a furious comeback by the Cavaliers.
Coosa led by seven points with less than three minutes remaining, but Callaway fought back and tied it at 60-60 on a Sanders tip-in with 12 seconds to play
After a Coosa miss, Sanders came down with the rebound and called timeout with four seconds left.
“I told him to take the ball, and go one-on-one,” Hayes said. “They were either going to foul him, or he’d make the shot.”
Sanders made the shot, and the Cavaliers were victorious.
Facing the big deficit, Sanders said the idea was to “just stay calm, and keep playing. Coach said we were going to have adversity coming into the game. And we had a lot of it. We overcame it, and just kept fighting.”
Sanders led the Cavaliers with 18 points, with eight of those points coming in the fourth period
Kedrick Ramsey and Tamarcus Smith added 13 points apiece.
Ramsey said no one panicked as the deficit mounted in the fourth quarter.
“We just knew that we had to keep playing,” Ramsey said. “We can’t let ourselves get down. We just kept playing.”
The Cavaliers led 16-12 after the first period, but the Eagles rallied to take a 26-25 lead at the half.
In the third period, it was the Cavaliers seemingly taking control with a 16-4 run that gave them a 41-30 lead.
The Eagles weren’t going away, though, and by the time the fourth period rolled around they were down 45-42.
Coosa’s momentum carried over the fourth period, and it extended the lead to 56-49 with 2:52 to play.
Back came the Cavaliers.
When Smith made a free throw with 48 seconds remaining, Coosa’s lead was down to two.
Callaway’s pressure defense, which created all sorts of havoc late, then forced a turnover.
“We turned them over a lot, and that helped tremendously,” Hayes said.
After a missed shot, Sanders was on the spot with the tip-in to tie the score with 12 seconds left, setting up the dramatic final moments.
The Cavaliers will play the winner of a first-round game between Washington County and Albany.
“Nobody can stop us but ourselves right now,” Sanders said. “That’s how I feel.”