When the season is on the line, seniors tend to take their game to another level. CAL’s upperclassmen proved that Monday night against Central.
The senior trio of Shelby Calhoun, Mia Beam, and Lindsey Thomas all played critical roles in the Centurions’ 67-59 victory over the Yellow Jackets in the first round of the seventh region tournament. It is CAL’s first region tournament win since 2012.
“Earlier in the year, we were winning a lot of close games, and there was a little stretch where we lost a few in a row,” said CAL head coach Cameron Pridemore. “It’s kind of nice for these girls to know we haven’t lost that. We’re still fine, and we can still finish games. It got a little bit scarier than I think we wanted, but they’re not going to quit. They didn’t want to be done either.”
The Centurions led by 15 with 3:24 to play before the Yellow Jackets staged a furious last-gasp rally. Central went on a 13-2 run to cut the deficit to four at 63-59 with 1:17 remaining. CAL withstood Central’s surge by making free throws down the stretch. Thomas, who didn’t enter the game until the fourth quarter, hit five-of-six from the line in the last 1:28 to help preserve the win.
“I couldn’t be happier for her,” said Pridemore. “She’s somebody who has been fighting for playing time all year. I probably should’ve found more for her. But she’s kept a great attitude through all of it.
“She was beaming in the locker room. And it couldn’t have happened to a better person. To come in that spot and make those shots when we needed to start making them because we weren’t. That was impressive. I wouldn’t want to be in that position.”
Fellow senior, and leading scorer and rebounder, Shelby Calhoun played arguably her best game of the year. She finished with a game-high 27 points, 18 rebounds, five assists, five blocks, and two steals.
“She makes it look easy,” said Pridemore. “She’s such a special player. Her emotions stay the same. I can’t think of a time she’s ever had a bad day. She’s calm. She has a cooling effect out there for us in a game like this, where it gets a little crazy. She didn’t want to be done.”
And then there’s Mia Beam, who scored 18 points, including back to back triples that gave CAL its first lead of the game in the second quarter, a lead the Centurions never relinquished.
Central sophomore Amaya Asher led the team with 19 points. The Yellow Jackets sprinted out to an early 7-0 lead and led for most of the first half.
“The major difference tonight was not containing Calhoun,” said Central head coach Deshawn Pendleton. “She caused a lot of problems. One thing we tried to do was limit her touches, and we really didn’t do that for the most part until the end.
“This team has been resilient for the entire year. They never quit. And that’s one thing we always preach. At the end of the day, I’m really proud of them because I think we’re moving in the right direction. This is nothing but a stepping stone and adding fuel to the fire. We’ll be okay.”
CAL advances to the seventh region semifinals, where it faces Assumption Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Valley High School.