The Calhoun Yellow Jackets locked down on the defensive end on Wednesday night and locked in a State berth because of it.
The Jackets used stifling defense in the first half of their Region 6-AAA Tournament matchup against North Murray to set the tone and pull away for a 54-38 victory to advance to the semifinals and clinch their seventh straight trip to the state tournament.
Calhoun (11-13) suffocated North Murray’s offense from the start of the first quarter, deflecting several passes to create turnovers and making every shot difficult when the Mountaineers did get one. The Jackets led 15-5 after one quarter and then allowed just four points in the second quarter to build a 30-9 halftime lead.
“One of our defensive goals was to hold them to single-digit points in all four quarters,” said Layson. “The guys just came out and played so hard on that end of the court from the start. We got some deflections and steals early on that helped us get in transition for some easy buckets. Once we got off to that start and built a lead, we relied on our defense to hold it from there. It was a great all-around effort by our guys on defense tonight.”
Calhoun continued their dominance in the third quarter, allowing just eight points to North Murray (9-15) and finishing the period on a 6-0 run to push the lead to 44-17 and erase all doubt. The back-ups took over early in the fourth quarter as North Murray somewhat cut into the lead, but by then the result was all but decided.
The Jackets had a balanced scoring night with Chase Goble leading the way with 12 points, 10 coming in the first half to help his team build a sizeable lead. Gage Maffetone added 10, including a perfect 6-for-6 effort from the free throw line, and Tononcito Martha scored nine. Porter Law and Xaxton Goodson each contributed six.
“We’ve gotten used to Davis (Allen) having big numbers almost every night, but everyone played well enough tonight where we didn’t have to rely on him as much as we have,” said Layson. “Our guards played really well attacking in transition, and Chase Goble stepped up with a big night for us. He used his length very well defensively and rebounding and got a lot of buckets close to the basket. I’m very pleased overall to see this many guys contribute in a big game like this.”
North Murray’s Chaisen Buckner scored 13 points to lead his team, all coming in the second half. Waylyn James added 12 points, and Hayden Hulett had six.
Layson said getting a win to secure another state tournament berth takes a little burden off his team’s shoulders, but he doesn’t want them to be satisfied yet in the region tournament.
“It’s big mentally for our guys, especially the way our season started this year,” said Layson. “We could’ve quit and thrown in the towel, but our guys never hung their head and never stopped fighting and we’ve gotten progressively better throughout the year. Knowing you have a spot in the state tournament is a big relief, but I want our guys to stay hungry. We want to try to finish this region tournament strong and are still aiming for that sixth straight region title. We’ve got to keep our goals high.”
The victory moves Calhoun into the region semis where they will square off with Sonoraville at 5:30 p.m. on Friday. It is the third meeting this year between the two rivals with the Phoenix taking the first two, most recently a 76-73 victory on the Jackets’ home court last Friday. Layson said it will be another highly-competitive game and a welcomed shot at redemption for his team.
“I think our guys wanted that chance after we looked at the region bracket,” said Layson. “That loss at home to (Sonoraville) last Friday was a tough pill to swallow for our guys after we fought so hard in that game. But it humbled us, and we’re ready to step up and embrace this opportunity. It should be a great atmosphere and great game against a very talented Sonoraville team.”