Big night for Callaway Middle
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It was Callaway’s night.
The middle-school county championship games were contested on Thursday, and it was the boys’ and girls’ teams from Callaway Middle and Gardner Newman locking horns for the titles.
In the girls’ game, Callaway finished off an unbeaten season with a 23-12 victory over Gardner Newman.
In a hard-fought boys’ game, Callaway outlasted Gardner Newman 47-43 to bring home the title.
The games were played at Gardner Newman, and hundreds of spectators filled the gym to watch the players fight it out for county supremacy.
In the final game of the middle-school season, the Callaway and Gardner Newman boys’ teams battled to the end.
It was tied at 35-35 when Callaway went on a 9-2 run to take a seven-point lead with 1:18 to play.
Gardner Newman hung tough and got within two, but Callaway made the plays it needed to down the stretch to preserve the win.
“To me honestly, these guys have shown the camaraderie all year,” said Callaway Middle head coach Andre Johnson. “Dealing with middle-school boys, you know they get hot-headed, but when they see the victory at the end of the tunnel, they lock in.”
Johnson added that “we talked about the three Ds before the game started. We talked about direction, discipline, and defense. That’s what got it done.”
Dustin Ward, the head coach for Gardner Newman, said he was “very proud of our kids’ effort tonight.”
“The outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but to see our kids play with heart and integrity was a great thing to witness,” Ward added. “I give a lot of credit to coach Johnson and his team. They made the necessary plays tonight to lead them to victory. The future is very bright in this county for all three schools and tonight was just a taste of what this town will look like within the next three to four years.”
D’Arcy Harris, the tournament’s most valuable player, led Callaway with 16 points, Deshun Coleman made a pair of 3-pointers and scored 10 points, and Jordan King contributed eight points.
For Gardner Newman, Treyonn Tucker led the way with 14 points, with eight of those points coming in the first quarter.
BJ Wortham made three 3-pointers and scored nine points, and Qua Anthony had seven points.
The game was deadlocked with a little more than four minutes to play when King made a free throw to jump-start Callaway’s 9-2 run.
Cordarian Blackmon capped the run with a pair of free throws, giving Callaway a 42-35 lead with 1:16 to play.
The Mustangs weren’t done.
A Wortham 3-pointer followed by two Cama’Jay Casson free throws got the Mustangs within two with 56 seconds left.
Callaway scored the next four points on free throws by Coleman and Harris to make it a six-point game, and Wortham drained another 3-pointer with five seconds left to get Gardner Newman within three.
With one second remaining, Harris was intentionally fouled, and he made one free throw to extend the lead to four.
Callaway maintained possession because of the intentional foul, and the clock ran out following the inbounds pass.
Following the game, the players and coaches for both teams huddled on the court for a prayer, and Johnson felt that sent an important message.
“That’s why we got together in the middle and prayed together. At the end of the day, God brought us all together,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, win, lose or draw, we’re still one people.”
In Thursday’s girls’ championship game, Callaway closed out a 14-0 season with the 23-12 victory over Gardner Newman.
While it wasn’t one of Callaway’s better offensive games of the season, the defense was dominant all night. Gardner Newman was limited to two points in the second half.
“Our opponents average about 15 points a ballgame, and we were averaging about 45 points a ballgame,” said Callaway head coach Jimmy Askew. “We didn’t have our average, but it doesn’t matter, because we were able to come out ahead, even thought we had a bad ballgame.”
Every time Callaway showed up for a game this season, it found a way to win, even if the execution wasn’t picture-perfect every time out.
“We won, even when we weren’t at our best,” Askew said. “You never know what you’re going to get, but they always won.”
Lacy Thomas, a dominant post player, led Callaway with 13 points, and Maniyah Brooks paced Gardner Newman with six points.
Thursday’s wins capped a terrific season for both Callaway teams.
The Callaway boys’ and girls’ teams each won three tournaments while claiming the county championship.