published Friday, February 28th, 2014

Calhoun tops Coosa, reaches Georgia semifinals

Coosa came into Thursday's Georgia Class AA boys' basketball quarterfinal at Calhoun with nearly half its losses being to the host team. Now the word "nearly" can be taken out of that sentence.

An early-fourth-quarter run proved to be the difference in Calhoun's 67-59 victory over Coosa -- its fifth in five tries against the Eagles this season.

Calhoun (25-2) will play Vidalia in a semifinal Saturday at Columbus State at 8:15 p.m. The Yellow Jackets had previous semifinal appearances in 2001 and '02.

"Calhoun has got some great basketball history," Yellow Jackets coach Vince Layson said. "I'm glad to see us back where we used to be."

Coosa (20-10) made Calhoun earn it. The Yellow Jackets led 19-13, but the Eagles were ahead 36-31 early in the second half and still up 44-42 when the pivotal stretch began.

A steal by Chandler Curtis led to two free throws by him, which tied the score heading to the fourth quarter. Another steal by Curtis and his long pass ahead set up an Austin Byrd layup with 5:06 to play that put the Yellow Jackets on top by 10.

"I think we defended well," Layson said of the 12-2 spurt that enabled his team to seize control. "There were times in the first half we defended pretty good, but we kind of lost them at times. Going down the stretch, we didn't blow any defensive assignments."

The Eagles player they lost track of the most in the first half was Tavaris Wilson, who made six 3-pointers on the way to 20 points by halftime.

"I didn't believe they could sustain shooting that well for two halves of basketball," Layson said. "The Wilson kid is an unbelieveable outside shooter. In the first half sometimes we had a hand in his face and a person in his hip pocket and he was still able to hit."

But in the second half Wilson was limited to three 2-point field goals -- one of those a layup after a steal -- and he missed his two free throws.

"Credit goes to Jireh Wilson for stepping up in the second half," Layson said. "He made every shot and every look [Tavaris Wilson] got nearly impossible."

Curtis topped Calhoun with 20 points, which included four 3-point goals.

"I saw a kid from Coosa making all those 3s in the first half, and that got in my head," Curtis said. "I felt like I had to have as much as him. We were not going to lose here. This was like another senior night for me -- my last game here."

Byrd scored 15 points for the Yellow Jackets, and post player Keyth Fightmaster had eight of his 12 in the first quarter. Kaelan Riley contributed 11 points and Jireh Wilson's nine points were all after halftime.

Contact Kelley Smiddie at ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.

about Kelley Smiddie...

Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com.

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