E.A. Sports Today

Driving to victory

Usually a force from the outside, McCord attacked the basket late in the game to lift the Lions

Faith Christian's Caleb McCord lays up a shot between two Wellborn defenders in Saturday's Calhoun County Tournament game. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Faith Christian’s Caleb McCord lays up a shot between two Wellborn defenders in Saturday’s Calhoun County Tournament game. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Caleb McCord has the reputation for being one of Faith Christian’s outside threats, but there he was late in the game Saturday driving hard to the basket, showing a part of the game he has worked so hard in the offseason to perfect.

McCord attacked the basket throughout the Lions’ 58-54 victory over Wellborn in the opening game of the 2016 Calhoun County Tournament at Pete Mathews Coliseum. But the senior captain was particularly effective that way in the final four minutes of the game.

McCord scored seven of the Lions’ last nine points and drove and dished to Jack Sills for the other two. He finished with 15 points.

The 12th-seeded Lions (13-7) will now play fifth-seeded Oxford Monday at 4:30 p.m.

“I wasn’t hitting from the outside today, so I just tried to do what I could,” McCord said. “And there at the end, it was big putting up points on the scoreboard and ending it.

Jordan Griswould and Alex Taylor both had 13 for Faith. Sills had 12.

It was a game of wild swings. Faith came out quickly and opened an 11-3 lead that stretched to 22-13. Things looked even more bleak for Wellborn when Panthers shooting star Blake Hanson picked up his third foul with 1:45 left in the first quarter.

Hanson played through it early and picked up the pace in the second quarter. The Panthers took advantage of the 1A Lions’ inexplicable drop in energy and rallied to take a 35-26 lead at halftime. In the midst of that run Hanson picked up his fourth foul.

Jordan Montgomery kept the Panthers in the game while Hanson was out. He hit four 3-pointers and scored 18 points. Hanson finished with 15.

“We weren’t nervous at all,” McCord said. “We knew our game was going to start working and they weren’t going to be able to stop us. We got on a roll and they couldn’t come back.”

Faith coach Brad Yarbrough challenged his team at halftime and the Lions responded. They got back even and it remained a tight game the rest of the way – until McCord took over on the floor.

McCord’s personal end run started with a pair of free throws to give Faith a 51-48 lead. Wellborn closed to within one, then McCord scored on hard driving layups the next two possessions to run the lead to five.

Before it was over, he drove and dished to Sills to make it 57-52 and then hit a free throw after be fouled dribbling across the floor.

“I think he kind of gets that kind of rap (as an outside shooter) just because he can shoot it from there and he is lethal from there sometimes,” Yarbrough said. “But when he’s smart, patient and does what we ask him to do with the offense – he’s being a leader – he can get to the rim.

“He worked on that hard this summer. That’s the main thing he asked me about. He wanted to get better at handling the ball, he wanted to get better finishing through contact, so we worked on that and he’s really improved on that aspect.”

Actually, taking it to the basket was taking McCord back to his roots. His outside shooting touch developed over time.

“That was the first thing I learned to do, in the backyard just driving and lay it in, and that’s just what I went to,” he said. “I think it makes me a lot more effective, especially when I’m not hitting from the outside.

“That’s what I worked on this summer. I worked on expanding my game tremendously. My jump shot … I changed my whole form. That’s what I’ve really emphasized in my game, being able to knock down shots. If they give it to me I’m going to knock them down; if they don’t, I’m going to drive past and get to the rim or pull up.”

Faith Christian 58, Wellborn 54

WELLBORN – Eric Johnson 1 2-3 5, Quandarious Moore 1 1-2 3, Ked Harris 1 0-0 3, Jordan Montgomery 5 4-4 18, Junior Towns 1 0-2 2, Jaylun Kelley 4 0-0 8, Blake Hanson 6 1-1 15. Totals 19 8-13 54.

FAITH CHRISTIAN (13-7) – Jack Sills 6 0-1 12, Caleb McCord 6 3-4 15, Jordan Griswould 5 2-3 13, Jameson Adams 1 0-0 2, Jameson Thacker 1 0-0 3, Alex Taylor 5 0-1 13. Totals 24 5-9 58.

Wellborn 18 17 8 11 — 54
Faith Christian 22 4 19 13 — 58

3-point goals: Wellborn 8 (Johnson, Harris, Montgomery 4, Hanson 2); Faith 5 (Griswould, Thacker, Taylor 3). Fouled out: Johnson. Total fouls: Wellborn 14, Faith 10. Officials: Self, Gilmore, Coleman.

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