It is a big week for the Calhoun High School girls basketball team.
The young Lady Jackets, with just two seniors on the roster, have had a great first couple of months to the season, but this is the time the games that matter — aka, the 5A Region 7 schedule — come to the forefront.
And with two league games this week and then a trip to archrival Dalton Saturday for a third meeting between the neighboring teams, the Lady Jackets, who also don’t have a lot of height beyond 6-foot-1 Dora Moore, have some crucial games coming up in the next few days.
“This is an important week for us because these are the games that really determine your season,” Calhoun head coach Jaime Echols said. “If you want to get into the playoffs, which we do, you have to play well in your region, so these are the games we’ve been working towards and these are the teams that we’ve been preparing for. I know I’m anxious to get it started and excited to see how our girls stand up against some very good teams.”
Their league opener was Tuesday night against Hiram (details of that game were not available at press time) and they remain at The Hive Friday evening to take on Woodland before they step out of the league Saturday to play the Lady Catamounts in Whitfield County.
Echols said the first game right out of the chute will be a real early gauge for his team.
“We’ll find out a lot about ourselves right away because Hiram’s a very good team,” he said. “They are the defending region champs and have played a really tough schedule to this point, so right off the bat, they’ll be a real good test for us. They’re very athletic and they were very good last year, so we know we have a real tough team to start, but I think it will be good for our players to see the type of teams we have in our region and find out where we stand.”
He said while the present records for some may not indicate it, the Region has six very good teams.
“Our Region is tough,” Echols said. “Cass is very strong and they are on a real roll right now. Hiram’s very good as well and those two teams are the last two region champs, so that tells you how well they have played the last couple of years. And I don’t think that has really changed any this year. I think they’re both still very good.
“Blessed Trinity is another team that has played a real tough schedule, and they have good athletes. So I know they’re going to be tough. All the teams in our Region are well-coached. So to me, we have to be ready to go every night. We have to be ready to play every game. But I am looking forward to it and I think the girls are itching to get the Region games started, so this is a big week for us and hopefully we can come out and play our style and play well for three games in a row like we did at our tournaments.”
The game against Hiram ended an 11-day layoff as they used last week to prepare for this week and the Region games that lie ahead, but before the recent layoff, the team played six games, or nearly half of its schedule, during the Christmas break in 10 days. In other words, Echols said, everything balances out.
“I feel like it all evens out,” Echols said. “We’re halfway through the season and we’ve played half our games. I know we are just finishing a layoff, but we had played a bunch of games in a short amount of time before this break we’re just now finishing, so it all evens out. But I thought last week was a good week for us.
“We worked on a lot of fundamentals and just worked on continuing to get better as a team and getting better individually and I felt like we did that. I know the girls worked really hard last week and I thought every practice was good. Now we’re ready to go play our Region games and see how we do. And I know we want to get off to a good start in Region, so it’s a big week for us.”
Presently, Cass has the best record of anyone in the Region with an excellent 14-1 record that includes a current 13-game win streak as they get ready to start their league schedule. Calhoun, which starts four underclassmen, has an outstanding 10-3 mark with one of those losses a three-point setback to Cass at the Adairsville tournament to close out 2021.
Hiram has the third-best record in the league at 6-6 and then Blessed Trinity is 4-9 while Cartersville is 2-4 and Woodland stands 2-9.
“The record that matters from here on out is what you do in Region,” Echols said. “That’s the only record that counts now. Some of these teams, you just discard their record. We know they’re good and we know we’ve got to be ready.”
Besides the two region games, they end the week Saturday night in Dalton and the Catamounts also handed the Lady Jackets one of their three losses as the teams have split their first two meetings of the season.
Next year, the rivals will be in the same region with each other with Dalton moving down a classification from 6A.