Tough challenge for Callaway
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They’re ready for the challenge.
The Callaway Lady Cavaliers know what’s waiting on them in the opening round of the Class AA state tournament.
Callaway is playing on the road against a Rockmart team that won a region title, and has one of the state’s top players in Keyarah Berry.
It’s a challenge the Lady Cavaliers aren’t shying away from, though, and they’ll make the trip to Rockmart expecting to compete and have a chance to steal a road win.
“I look at our team, and we might be a four seed on paper, but if we show up to play, I think we can beat this team. I really do,” said Callaway head coach Deyano Martin. “They need to believe and just buy in, and want to continue. You have to want to continue to play. Not one or two, but the whole team has to want to continue to keep practicing, and continue to keep playing.”
Callaway (11-10) earned its state-tournament berth by finishing fourth in Region 5-AA, while Rockmart (20-6) won the Region 7-AA championship with a 57-56 win over Chattooga.
Rockmart is led by Berry, who had 44 of her team’s 57 points against Chattooga.
“She’s fast and quick,” Martin said. “What we’ve got to do is, we’ve got to stay attached to her, force her to work for it. We’ve got to get back, because she wants to score in transition, and they want to get her the ball. My plan is to let somebody stay in her hip pocket the whole game, and go from there.”
Callaway has a big-time scorer of its own in sophomore guard Gabrielle Johnson, who averages close to 20 points a game.
In one memorable game at Valley, Johnson had her first-ever 30-point game as a varsity player.
Fellow sophomore guard Niakoe Burks is also a capable scorer who averages more than eight points a game.
Sophomore post player Camryn Stargell has the ability to take games over, and she averages nearly 11 points and 12 rebounds a game.
Another key player for Callaway is senior Javonna Bradford, who scores seven points a game and is second on the team to Stargell in rebounds.
Bradford’s senior season has been her most productive as a varsity player, and she said “it’s been a really great experience.”
“There have been tough times, but also great times and we’ve had good teams over the years,” Bradford added. “I just feel like this year was kind of my breakout year. I didn’t play too much in my previous years, but I was able to come out and help my team.”
Callaway’s other senior is guard Markiya Harris, who’ll be in the starting lineup for Friday’s games.
While Bradford has been at Callaway since she was a freshman, Harris arrived at the school as a sophomore after transferring from Troup.
“It’s been a great experience at Callaway,” Harris said. “Everybody acts like a family over here, and everybody loves each other.”
Harris is hopeful that her time as a Callaway basketball player won’t end on Friday, and she believes she and her teammates have a chance.
“I feel like we can go up there and win,” Harris said. “We have a lot of potential on this team. It’s not just one person.”
Bradford added that “we feel like we have a good chance to win if we come with our heads straight, and we play our roles, and play together. We can have our best game.”
CALLAWAY VS. ROCKMART
WHAT: First round of Class AA girls state tournament
WHEN: Friday, 6 p.m.
WHERE: Rockmart High
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Callaway (11-10) finished fourth in Region 5-AA; Rockmart (20-6) finished first in Region 7-AA
UP NEXT: The winner will play East Laurens or Thomasville in the second round