The Calhoun Yellow Jackets have used the motto ‘Clock-in’ all season as they’ve rolled to a perfect record so far, and they carried that over into the postseason tonight as they simply came out and took care of business.
The Jackets built an early lead and never let up to coast past West Hall 68-39 in the first round of the Class AAA state tournament on Tuesday. With the win, Calhoun (26-0) moves on to face Westside-Macon on Saturday after their opening-round win over Butler.
The Jackets used their usual up-tempo, pressure style to set the tone early against the Spartans, building a 22-9 lead at the end of the first quarter with many of those points coming in transition. They continued with the same pace in the second quarter and led 37-19.
The third quarter was the most dominant of the night for Calhoun as they outscored West Hall (13-15) 23-6 to erase all doubt and build a 60-25 lead going to the final period and forcing the mercy-rule shortened fourth.
Calhoun coach Vince Layson said his team simply carried over what they’ve done all season in coming to work and the result was another big win.
“We like to dictate the tempo of the game by pushing the ball in transition and using our pressure,” said Layson. “When we can get the game going up and down, it plays into our hands. We were able to do that tonight and forced them to play from behind from the beginning, which makes it really tough.”
The Jackets balanced scoring attack showed once again as four players reached double figures led by Jireh Wilson’s game-high 16. He scored 13 of those in the first half and finished the night with four 3-pointers to go along with his nine rebounds.
Kaelan Riley was next up in the scoring column with 15 as he added 13 rebounds for the double-double. Chapin Rierson scored 14, and Ray Reeves added 10. The Jackets’ Malik Lawrence finished one point shy of giving the team five players in double figures with nine.
“Malik got off to a quick start by getting some easy ones early, and that started to put the focus on him which opened it up for other guys,” said Layson. “Our guys keep that extra-pass mentality and try to set up their teammates. They really enjoy playing together and you can see that by the way they share the ball. They’re fun to coach, and I would think they’re fun to watch as a fan. Hopefully we can keep it going for four more.”
West Hall was led by Tyquan Statham who scored 12 in the season-ending effort. Esteban Ulloa was also in double figures with 11. No other West Hall player scored more than four.
Layson said his team’s success also has a lot to do with their defense-first attitude.
“One of our nightly goals all year has been to keep the opponent under 55 points,” said Layson. “The guys have really bought into that and want to keep the score down. They’re even thinking about that in the fourth quarter when the younger guys get in the game. That shows you how much they’ve bought into it.”
A huge test awaits Calhoun in the second round as Westside-Macon comes to town on Saturday with a 22-6 record and plenty of talent to go around according to Layson. He said his team can’t change their attitude when the Seminoles visit.
“We have to play our best game of the season,” said Layson. “Our guys have bought into being blue-collar players and a blue-collar team. They want to do whatever it takes to get the win.
“They’ve put that hardhat on all season. Hopefully, they’ll put it on again on Saturday and be ready to go to work.”