Cavaliers are back at state
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
After a one-year absence, the Callaway Cavaliers are back at state.
The 2017-2018 season was a difficult one for the Cavaliers, who went 3-16 and didn’t qualify for the state tournament.
It’s been a different story this season.
The Cavaliers (12-11) have quadrupled their win total, and they were second in Region 5-AA during the regular season before finishing third in the region tournament.
Callaway had a disappointing loss to Bremen in the semifinals before bouncing back for a 52-49 victory over Heard County in the third-place game.
Callaway’s state opponent will be Banks County (19-9), which finished second in the Region 8-AA tournament.
Banks County will be the host team, with tip-off set for Saturday at 6 p.m.
The winner advances to the second round to play either Banks County or Douglass-Atlanta.
Before last season, Callaway’s boys’ program had been on a phenomenal run under head coach Terry Hayes.
Beginning in the 2012-2013 season, Callaway won four consecutive region titles, a streak that ended with a second-place finish in 2016.
From 2014 to 2017, Callaway made it at least as far as the second round of the state tournament, and that included a semifinal appearance in 2014.
The Cavaliers suffered heavy losses to graduation following the 2016-2017 season, and Hayes made the decision to throw some young players into the fire last season.
Among the players either starting or getting significant playing time were two freshmen, Demetrius Coleman and Javontay Boddie, as well as sophomores Antinez Blount and Duke Simpson.
The Cavaliers struggled, and their season ended with a first-round loss in the region tournament.
With those same players leading the way this season, the Cavaliers have resumed their winning ways.
“I’m very proud,” said Hayes, who won a state championship as the coach at Hogansville before becoming the first boys’ coach at Callaway High in 1996. “Like I told the kids, from last year winning three games, to winning 12 ballgames now and making it to the state tournament. That’s a phenomenal turnaround. I’m very proud of them.”
Callaway’s leading scorer is Coleman, who was one of four members of the team to make the all-region team.
Also earning all-region honors are Boddie, Blount and Simpson.
While Coleman and Boddie create a formidable tandem at guard, Blount and Simpson have done a nice job in side.
One of the newcomers who has given the Cavaliers a lift is sophomore Jalin Sheppard, who has done a terrific job at point guard.
Junior Jacob Freeman joined the basketball this season, and he provides a spark off the bench.
Banks County comes into today’s game riding high. Banks County had won nine consecutive games before losing to Elbert County in the region-championship game.
“They’re a bigger team, but hopefully we can put pressure on them,” Hayes said.
CALLAWAY VS. BANKS COUNTY
WHEN: Today, 6 p.m.
WHERE: Banks County
WHAT: Opening round of the Class AA state tournament
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Callaway (12-11) finished third in the Region 5-AA tournament; Banks County (19-9) finished second in the Region 8-AA tournament
UP NEXT: The winner plays either Douglass-Atlanta or Chattooga in the second round