Callaway hits road for state-tournament game

Published 12:44 am Thursday, February 23, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

HOGANSVILLE – There were plenty of question marks for the Callaway Cavaliers as they prepared for a new season.

While all-state player Braylon Sanders was set to return, every other starter from last season’s team that won a fourth consecutive region championship graduated.

Could the Cavaliers, with so many new pieces in the lineup, continue to excel and once again be an elite team?

Considering the Cavaliers are one of 16 teams still standing in the Class AA state tournament, the answer is clearly yes.

Callaway advanced to the second round with a dramatic 62-60 win over Coosa on Friday.

Callaway (12-10), the number two seed from Region 5-AA, will visit Region 3-AA champion Washington County (14-9) today, with tip-off set for 6 p.m.

Against the Coosa Eagles, the Cavaliers rallied from seven down in the final minutes to pull even, and Sanders hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer.

“The sky’s the limit,” said Terry Hayes, Callaway’s long-time head coach. “We’re playing with house money now.”

The Cavaliers struggled a bit earlier in the season.

The Cavaliers, in fact, dropped their first three region games before they got hot and won six of their next seven games.

Callaway then reached the region-championship game before losing a close one to Heard County.

In the state opener, Callaway built a double-digit lead in the third quarter, but Coosa charged back and was up by seven with less than three minutes to play.

The Cavaliers, with Sanders leading the way, outscored the Eagles by nine down the stretch to punch their ticket to the second round.

Sanders, who helped Callaway reach the final four when he was a freshman, scored 18 points and made big play after big play in the final minutes.

Guard Tamarcus Smith, who has excelled as a starter this season after coming off the bench a year ago, scored 13 points.

Post player Kedrick Ramsey, another first-time starter this season, also scored 13 points, and DQ Wilkerson added eight points.

Milton Turner, Courtney Williams, Kobe Jackson, Lazarrick Prather and Makel Blake all played and contributed to the state win.

Among those players, Sanders, Ramsey, Williams, Jackson and Wilkerson were all key members of the football team that made it to the state semifinals last fall.

“We’ve had the pressure,” Wilkerson said. “Some people can’t handle the pressure, and we can. We just played hard.”

Now, Callaway is one victory away from a spot in the elite eight.

Standing in Callaway’s way is Washington County, which outlasted Albany 61-56 in the first round.

Washington County features a balanced offense, and guard Chris Parker leads the way with 12.8 points per game.

Fellow senior guard Monterrio Maze averages 10 points per game.

If Callaway gets the win today, it would play either Butler or South Atlanta in the quarterfinals.

A year ago, South Atlanta beat Callaway in the second round.

“I feel like we can go as far as we want to go,” Ramsey said. “If we continue to play at the caliber we’ve been playing, we can beat anybody.”