Callaway loses heartbreaker in the first round of the state playoffs

Published 11:17 pm Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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It was heartbreak for Callaway on Tuesday night as the girls basketball team saw its 2024 season seemingly cut short when they lost 55-52 to Athens Academy.

The team was left with more questions than answers when the final buzzer pierced a hushed Callaway gymnasium. Less than a week ago, the Cavaliers were the no. 1 seed heading into the region championship and had compiled one of the best regular season records in program history. 

Unfortunately, it all came crashing down on Tuesday. 

Callaway was all over the Spartans early, but the second half was a struggle for the home team.

The Cavaliers controlled the majority of the first quarter but only had a 10-8 lead to show for it going into the second.

Athens Academy quickly tied the game to start the second which lit a fire under the Cavaliers, who responded with 10 straight points to take a 20-10 lead. 

Just when it looked like it was Callaway in control, the Spartans came roaring back, going on an 8-2 run to close the half as the Cavaliers got sloppy with the ball.

By the end of the half, the Callaway lead was chopped down to just four points (24-20).

The warning signs were there for the Cavaliers and they would be on full display in the third quarter. Callaway’s offense could muster just 10 points and the team’s four-point lead was turned into a four-point deficit heading to the fourth when the Spartans nailed a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer. 

The offensive slump continued into the fourth quarter. This combined with an improved Spartan attack meant that Athens Academy was able to take a double-digit lead with 5:13 remaining in the game.

The Cavaliers showed no quit, battling back and even taking a 52-51 lead when Lacey Thomas hit a baseline jumper with a minute to go. A bad foul on the other end gave the Spartans two free throws that both went down as Callaway’s lead lasted all of 10 seconds. 

A turnover on the other end with 38 seconds to go spelled doom for the Cavaliers and this was multiplied when the Spartans hit a jump shot with four seconds to go.

In her final game as a Cavalier, Lacey Thomas led the team in scoring and rebounding with 18 points and 13 boards. The star center will be hard to replace next season. 

Fellow senior and starting point guard, Keiyunna Maddox will be equally as hard to replace and finished her final night in red and black with 13 points, five assists and four rebounds.

Junior Raniya Mahone will be one of the building blocks next season and finished her third year as a Cavalier with 14 points 

After going to the quarterfinals in two straight seasons — the first such appearances in program history — the Cavaliers have now lost in the opening round of the playoffs for two years in a row.

Callaway finished the season with a record of 23-5.