Two rivals entered the Region 6-AAA Tournament semifinals on Friday night, but only one left with a chance to win a region title.
Calhoun Jackets put together one of their best offensive performances of the season and combined that with a shutdown period of defense in the second quarter to come through with a huge win over rival Sonoraville 70-55 to advance to the championship game on Saturday night. The Jackets (12-13) made 11 3-pointers in the contest and held Sonoraville to just five points in the second quarter as two keys to the victory, which avenged their two losses in the regular season to the Phoenix (22-3).
“It was a big game, but we rested on our defense like we always do,” said Calhoun coach Vince Layson. “In the first quarter, our offense kept us in it with some big shots and four 3s, and we settled in on defense and did what we do after that. Our defense really picked up in the second quarter, but even though we had gotten the lead at the half, our guys were very mature and knew that they couldn’t let up. They came out with the same intensity in the second half and finished the job.”
Both teams came out hot in the opening quarter with Sonoraville hitting three 3s and getting 12 points from Wil Walraven to take a 21-18 lead at the end of the period. Calhoun answered each time the Phoenix made a little run in the quarter, never allowing them to build a lead of more than five points.
The second quarter is when Calhoun fully grabbed the momentum, outscoring Sonoraville 11-5 to take a 29-26 halftime lead. The Jackets forced Sonoraville to take contested shots in the period and allowed very few second-chance opportunities by securing strong defensive rebounds.
Calhoun came out of the break and built on their lead with a 10-2 run to open the third quarter and push the score to 39-28. Sonoraville cut the deficit to six at 42-36 with a 3-pointer from Trent Daniel late in the period, but the Jackets pushed the advantage back to eight at the end of the third at 50-42.
After Calhoun got a 3 to open the fourth from Davis Allen to go ahead 53-42, Sonoraville made their biggest run of the second half as they reeled off seven straight points, all coming from Walraven to cut the deficit to 53-49. But the Jackets got some big buckets and free throws from that point on to close it out with senior point guard Porter Law taking on the biggest role down the stretch, scoring 11 of his 20 points in the game in the fourth and going 6-of-9 at the free throw line.
Law and Allen shared the scoring lead for Calhoun with 20 points apiece and each hit four 3-pointers in the game.
“Porter is a coach’s dream, and he is a winner,” said Layson. “He is one of the most hard-working kids I’ve ever seen, and he is the epitome of a kid that works his way up to the top. He hit some big shots for us tonight and finished the game with some clutch free throws. Davis got back on track tonight as well. He’s solid on the offensive and defensive end and makes the plays you have to make to help a team win. Those two solidified the game offensively for us.”
Xaxton Goodson added 12 points as the third Jacket in double figures, and Gage Maffetone scored seven.
Walraven had a game-high 26 points, including three 3s, in the contest for Sonoraville. Lucas Brooks added 10, and Chris Rush scored nine. Sonoraville coach Brent Mashburn said it was definitely a tough loss to take after his team had such a special regular season to clinch the top spot in the subregion and having just one loss in the subregion or region crossover portion of the schedule.
“Obviously, it’s tough to deal with,” said Mashburn. “To have a great regular season to put ourselves in a good position to try to win a region title and then fall short is really tough. Credit to Calhoun tonight. They rebounded, made shots and played well defensively. We never got in any rhythm after the first quarter, and that makes it tough against a team that is playing well like Calhoun. When you get to this point, every team that is left in the region tournament is good and probably playing their best basketball, and you have to match that by playing well. We had a tough time at the free throw line tonight, had some uncharacteristic turnovers and didn’t shoot it as well as we have in most games this season. When you check all three of those boxes, it’s hard to win a big game like this.”
The victory moves Calhoun into the championship game on Saturday night against Bremen at 7:30 p.m. as they are looking for their sixth straight region title. Layson said he was proud of the effort he got from his team in a big game and is looking forward to a chance for them to extend their region title streak.
“This game tonight was about as big a game can be without it being for a region title,” said Layson. “It’s always a game both teams are up for with it being a rivalry, and to add on that a win would clinch a home game in the state tournament puts you in position to try to win a region title makes it even bigger. It was good to avenge the two losses we had earlier to Sonoraville and come through with a win in a huge game to move on to play for a region title. We’ve been playing better every week the last few weeks, and I wanted our guys to know that their hard work was going to pay off. I think it paid off tonight. Now, it’s on to the region title game. We always have that next play, next game mentality, win or lose. We know we’re going to get someone’s best game tomorrow night so we have to bring our best. Getting No. 6 in a row isn’t going to be easy.”
Sonoraville falls in to the third-place game against Ringgold on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.