Callaway looks for more state success

Published 12:14 am Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Daily News

With one state win under their belt, the Callaway Lady Cavaliers will be in Rome today as they look to keep their season alive.

Callaway, which rallied to beat South Atlanta 54-49 in the opening round of the Class AA state tournament last week, faces a big-time challenge.

Model, the state’s sixth-ranked Class AA team, will host Callaway after beating seventh-ranked Putnam County 70-64 in last week’s state opener.

The winner of today’s game will advance to the quarterfinals to play either Early County or Dodge County in the quarterfinals.

“I don’t think they’re ready to be done,” Callaway head coach Deyano Martin said. “They’re not ready for it to end.”

It nearly ended against South Atlanta.

With less than six minutes left in the game, South Atlanta had an eight-point lead, but Callaway finished the game on a 13-0 run.

Callaway’s lone senior, post player Chyna Cameron, led Callaway with 18 points, and she scored five of her team’s final six points.

After reaching the state tournament the previous three years, Cameron was thrilled to finally break through.

“This is our first time (winning at state) since 2003, so it means everything to me,” Cameron said.

This time of year, the task only grows more difficult each week, and that’s certainly the case for Callaway.

Model (23-3) won the Region 7-AA championship, and it earned an impressive win over Putnam County last week.

While Putnam County was a number four seed, it was ranked in the top five in the state for much of the season before dropping back-to-back games in the region tournament.

Model’s Victaria Saxton is her team’s top player, and she delivered a 38-point, 17-rebound performance against Putnam County.

“We knew it was going to be a tough contest, and I think knowing that, the girls were better prepared than they would have been had it not been Putnam County,” Model coach Sally Echols said. “We say it all the time, but it falls back on our defense. And I feel like our defense in the first half really set the tone for us.”

That defense is something Martin has taken notice of.

“Their focus is on their defense,” said Martin, noting that Model employs a full-court press throughout the game. “A key will be taking care of the ball. That’s something we’ve gotten better at.”

A lot of the ball-handling responsibilities for Callaway falls to sophomore Leijorey Sanders, who has done an outstanding job at point guard.

Sanders only scored five points against South Atlanta, but her ability to help get the ball up the court and set up the offense was critical.

Fellow guard Jasmine Dukes had a big game against South Atlanta with 13 points, and she was 5-of-5 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter as Callaway rallied.

Haley Holliday, a junior forward, added 11 points against South Atlanta, and junior post player Kierra Jackson scored seven points.

The ring leader for Callaway is Cameron, who has had a phenomenal senior season and is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder.

When Callaway made its charge from eight points down in the fourth quarter against South Atlanta, though, Cameron was on the bench.

Callaway climbed back into the game, and when Cameron returned to the court, she hit some big baskets to help secure the victory.

“It wasn’t an easy call (to take Cameron out),” Martin said. “We did what we had to do. She came back in ready.”

Cameron was proud of the way her younger teammates hung in there and fought back.

“I’m so proud of Jasmine Dukes, and Leijorey Sanders especially. They showed up, and they showed out,” Cameron said. “And you’ve got the 10th-grader (Aniyah Simpson). She doesn’t get in that much, and she showed out, too.”

Martin is hopeful that the experience of winning a state game will help propel the players forward.

“We got over that hump,” Martin said. “Now they know they can do it. They’re gaining confidence.”