Callaway upsets Columbia to claim region championship

Published 12:10 am Saturday, February 17, 2024

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Stunner. The Callaway boys basketball team edged out Columbia 72-71 in overtime to claim the Region 5-2A championship on Friday. Callaway, a fifth seed, gave the no. 1 seeded Eagles just their third loss in 30 games this season.

“I can’t even describe it,” coach Kenny Coleman said after being asked to describe what the win felt like. “They put their faith in an unproven assistant coach, and I thank everybody at the school who helped make this opportunity happen.”

Unlike the first two games between these teams this season, this was far from a lopsided affair. Callaway lost both regular season matchups by 25-plus, but Friday belonged to the Cavaliers.

“We refused to quit tonight, and we knew we were going to have to bring it for four quarters or more tonight,” Kenny said. “Our effort in those games wasn’t as good as it was tonight, and that’s the difference.”

It truly came down to just inches on the court as a Columbia shot with 2.4 seconds left in overtime was ruled two points and not a 3-pointer, which allowed the Cavaliers to cling to a 72-71 lead that would hold until the final buzzer rang in Eagle’s Landing’s gymnasium.

“We just had to believe, and we did coming into this tournament,” Kenny said. “We kept saying why not us? And they proved that it could be us tonight.”

The first quarter saw momentum swing back and forth like a pendulum with five lead changes and multiple ties. Columbia was able to take a 20-16 lead after one, but the Cavaliers hung tough despite being the underdog.

Right when it looked like the Eagles were running away with it late in the first half with a double-digit lead, the Cavaliers came roaring back. Callaway trailed 32-21 with just three minutes to go in the half but was not done yet. Darcy Harris hit a layup and Torri Truitt hit a 3-pointer with under a minute to go in the first half to cut the deficit down to just five (35-30) heading to halftime. 

The teams once again traded punches out of the break. A Harris layup with 57 seconds to go in the quarter gave the Cavaliers a 43-41 lead — their first since the first quarter.

Harris was huge for Callaway the entire game, scoring 19 points, but it was his play in the fourth and overtime that was so crucial. He had 10 points during the fourth quarter and overtime combined.

“I have 10 seniors on the team, and this is the moment they have been looking forward to,” Kenny said. 

Kenny’s son DeShun also had a big part to play in the win. He scored seven of his 12 points in the fourth quarter and sank two massive free throws in overtime.

“This will be a memory we share together forever,” Kenny said. “I won’t forget this anytime soon.”

Truitt was also huge for the Cavaliers’ offense, scoring 18 points. Senior Treyonn Tucker came away with some timely rebounds late and scored four of his eight points in the fourth quarter.

Callaway will be heading to the playoffs confident after claiming a region title. The Cavaliers will be a one-seed in the AA state playoffs.