McCallie proved to Signal Mountain that a 29-point blowout win in November was no fluke.
In a tune-up for a weekend Division II-AA East/Middle region showdown at Baylor, the Blue Tornado hammered the Eagles with a 26-2 first-quarter run, senior guard Jorden Williams went on a 3-point shooting rampage and McCallie won easily, 76-36, Thursday night.
The Eagles (13-10) went up 2-0.
“It looked pretty good at that point,” Eagles coach Steven Redman said.
Then, the sky fell.
Williams sparked the 26-2 blitz with five 3-pointers and the Tornado (9-9) went ahead 29-7 after one period and put the game on cruise control.
Williams finished with a game-high 24 points on eight 3s and the Blue Tornado made 13. Williams hit four 3s as McCallie routed Signal Mountain, 72-43, on Nov. 17 in a Hall of Fame game.
“It feels good to shoot like that,” Williams said. “The team was being unselfish passing the ball around and finding me in open space.”
While Williams’ teammates had no trouble locating him, the Eagles had no luck in keeping up with the 5-foot-11-inch wing.
In the first quarter, Williams drained five 3s and the Tornado made seven.
With McCallie out front 37-10 midway through the second quarter, Williams connected on his sixth shot from behind the arc. A couple of minutes later, Williams ripped his seventh 3, helping McCallie build a 48-14 halftime lead.
Williams and long-range partner Jamaal Calvin have never seen a 3 they’re afraid to take, and that confidence comes from endless hours in the gym taking such shots.
“Jamaal and I both shoot five hundred to a thousand jump shots almost every day, about five thousand a week,” said Williams, who added that the highest number of 3s he’s hit in a game was “10 or 12” in an AAU game last summer with the Chattanooga Raging Storm. “Our confidence is already high when we get into games. The games are the easy part for us.”
With 5:39 remaining in the third quarter, Williams canned his final 3 and spent a majority of the remaining time on the bench watching McCallie reserves mop up.
When Williams hit his eighth 3, Signal Mountain had seven total field goals and trailed 56-16.
“We’ve learned a lot the last two weeks about effort,” McCallie coach Dan Wadley said. “If you don’t give it, we have a bench that does and I’ve got the luxury of playing a lot of kids (11 played Thursday). They’re all responding well and I was proud of their effort tonight.”
After three quarters, the Eagles were hopelessly behind, 70-31, and probably were giddy to see the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association mercy rule – a running clock – go into effect over the final eight minutes.
“They shot fantastic,” Redman said of the Tornado. “They hustled. They got loose balls. They played hard and deserved to win big, which they did. We weren’t ready and didn’t show up.
“I think the guys got onto each other when we got down and we can’t do that. Teams are going to shoot well and put you in bad situations, but that doesn’t mean we can’t box out, we can’t dive for loose balls. We got out-hustled. Hopefully, we’ll learn something from this.”
C.J. Fritz, another guard, made two 3s. Calvin made one and was perfectly happy watching Williams riddle the Eagles time after time. Reserve wing Zak Hobbs made one. Even 6-7 center Nick Jacobs stepped back and drained one.
“Tonight,” Wadley said, “we shot the ball extremely well. It wasn’t just a couple of guys, a lot of guys were shooting the 3s. But I was more pleased with the defensive things we did. We alternated between zone and man and I thought we made it a little bit harder on them to get the shots they normally get.”
Fritz scored 16 points and Calvin added 11.
B.J. Wilkerson paced Signal Mountain with 16 points, including eight straight in the fourth quarter.
Now, the Blue Tornado turns its full attention to Baylor.
The bitter rivals met earlier in the season in a holiday tournament at Chattanooga State, with the Tornado posting a 63-57 victory in the championship game.
Saturday’s game is a sellout – to the surprise of no one – and the Red Raiders will be at full strength for the first time in many weeks with the return of senior Reggie Upshaw from a fractured foot and Amedeo Giussani back from visiting his family in Switzerland over the holiday break.
“Baylor has a great zone, a great team and coach (Austin) Clark is a great coach,” Williams said. “I’ve heard they have Reggie (Upshaw and Williams were teammates with the Storm) and it’s going to be a great game. We have to play hard, and play our best.”
Just like McCallie did Thursday in snapping a two-game losing streak.
“Baylor has a very good team,” Wadley said. “As long as we continue to play like we did tonight, we’re going to be all right. It’s going to be a tough one Saturday, but I’m hoping this will springboard us to play well over at Baylor.”
Signal Mountain 7 7 17 5 – 36
McCallie 29 19 22 6 – 76
Signal Mountain (36) – Braxton Reese, Challener 2, Teter 4, B.J. Wilkerson 16, Sowell 9, Guiterrez 2, Moon 3, Hodge, Hensley, Allison, McCaffrey, Palmer, Elwell.
McCallie (76) – C.J. Fritz 16, Jorden Williams 24, Moxey 4, Jacobs 7, Whitener 6, Alford 4, Jamaal Calvin 11, Hobbs 3, Couch 1, Clark, Thomas.
3-Point Goals: Signal Mountain none; McCallie 13 (Williams 8, Fritz 2, Jacobs, Calvin, Hobbs).
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)