“We’re family, and (even) outside of basketball, I love each and every one of them.”
That was the consoling words that Calhoun coach Vince Layson delivered to his disheartened team postgame following a tough, season-ending loss.
The Calhoun Yellow Jackets played host to the Redan Raiders on Saturday evening in the first round of the Class AAA State Tournament. It was a thrilling game that saw both teams fight neck-and-neck for four quarters. Ultimately, Redan (14-13) was able to find a way to pull out the victory, 45-41, to bring a sudden end to the season for the Region 6-AAA champion Jackets.
The game started out with both teams struggling, particularly on offense. The Calhoun defense was pretty stout on the night and set the tone in the first quarter. That was ultimately the difference in the period, as the home team took a six-point lead heading into the second quarter at 14-8.
Five different Yellow Jackets (13-14) put their name on the scoring sheet in the period, including Tononcito Martha with four.
It seemed like the second quarter was going to be Calhoun’s time to pull away, but Siah Gray and his Raiders squad had something to say about that. Gray scored four of his game-high 14 points in the period and helped his team go on an 8-0 run to end the half, which included a huge layup by Gray at the buzzer, to put the score at 21-20 in favor of Calhoun as both teams headed to the locker room.
The second half proved to be even more thrilling than the first, as both teams traded blows. Ultimately, Redan took a narrow 35-33 lead into the final period. Jordan Davis of Redan and Xaxton Goodson of Calhoun paced their respective teams with seven points apiece during the third quarter.
Gray’s play turned out to be the difference in the final quarter, as he notched five points, including a clutch free throw which followed two huge free-throw conversions by Redan’s Jordan Whittening towards the end that put the game out of reach at 45-41.
Calhoun saw seven different players score in the game including Chase Goble’s team-leading 13. Davis Allen added eight, and Goodson scored six.
Layson talked about his contribution and the teams’ performance as a whole.
“Well, Chase (Goble) hit some big shots for us,” said Layson. “As far as the team as a whole, we struggled a little bit. They (Redan) got back in a zone in the second quarter and throughout the rest of the game. They kind of wanted to dare us to shoot the ball a little bit, and that’s where Chase stepped up and hit a couple of shots. For the most part, it was a struggle offensively. Defensively, I think we did our job. We did what we had to do to put ourselves in a position to win. (We) just went cold and couldn’t find the hoop for a little while. We had some costly turnovers, and then, even with as bad as we were on offense at times, we had a chance to not only tie but put ourselves up one with a couple free throws late but couldn’t convert.”
Even though Calhoun was not victorious in the end, the Jackets still can take away a lot of positives from this season. Layson said he echoed that in his postgame talk to the team.
“We just discussed where we come from after beginning the season 1-9,” said Layson. “They could have gone several different directions, but they kept their head up. They listened. They were coachable. We accomplished some good things this year like winning the region championship, being the No. 1 seed and getting to host a first-round playoff game, so those are all big-time accomplishments that a lot of people would want to be in our spot.”
The loss marks the first time since the 2011-2012 season that the Jackets didn’t make it to at least the second round of the state tournament.