Callihans, Lady Cats beat buzzer, Rebels
It was a finish that will be talked about for years to come.
The Fannin County Lady Rebels were poised for an upset bid in the seventh-grade finals of the Georgia Mountain League Tournament, but Callihan sisters Emma and Elly and Clear Creek Lady Cats had other plans.
Down 25-22 with 2.5 seconds left in the game, Emma banked in a three-pointer to force overtime and keep the Lady Cats’ hopes alive. Behind by two with a last chance at redemption, Elly launched a prayer from 27 feet away that found the glass and the bottom of the net as the buzzer sounded for the 32-31 win.
Clear Creek players and fans stormed the court in celebration as those in blue stood frozen in disbelief.
“How many times does that happen ... you get a three to bank it to put it in overtime and another three to bank in to win it? And sisters at that,” said Clear Creek coach Ashley Bryant. “At the end of the game, I just wanted us to attack the basket. We did a good job of pressuring them, and we knew at the end we couldn’t foul them. We put enough pressure on them that we made things happen at the end defensively. We did a good job rebounding at the end when they missed some free throws.”
Much of the game was played at a frantic pace. Passes often found opposing players or landed out of bounds as both teams struggled to find offensive consistency.
“Fannin played really well, and we looked like a deer in headlights,” said Bryant. “We really struggled to find offense, and we were doing the little things wrong on defense. We had some sixth-graders (Reagan Boling and Elly Callihan) step up and go get the ball and do some things for us.”
She added, “I think we were real nervous. Credit to Fannin, they played great. I told them, ‘It’s just a ballgame. It’s just another game.’ At the end we played together as a team.”
The Cats endured a three minute scoreless spell in the first before Natalie Thomas came off the bench to score five straight points to tie the game at 7-all after a quarter. Both teams fed the post often and tournament MVP Emma Callihan scored 17 points on the day to lead all players.
Clear Creek led 15-13 at the half and 17-15 heading into the fourth quarter. A transition basket by the Rebels midway through the quarter stopped the scoring drought. Over the final three minutes of regulation, foul shots were key. Clear Creek made 5-of-11 and Fannin hit just 1-of-8 attempts over that time.
Down by four with 33 seconds to play, Emma Callihan was fouled shooting a three and converted two from the line. Fannin made a free throw with 8.5 seconds on the clock before Emma’s game-tying three-pointer.
In overtime, Clear Creek’s morale took a blow when Emma was injured she left the game permantely with 1:28 to play and the game tied, 29-29. The Rebels’ final two points came from the free-throw line before Elly’s dagger at the buzzer to seal the championship.
“This is a great group of kids,” Bryant said. “They’ve grown so much from the beginning of the year until now, especially some of these sixth-graders who played a lot. I couldn’t be prouder of the team and how things have gone.”
Thomas scored nine points for the Cats. Both Emma Deyton and Elly had three. Rebounding ...
Riverview had little to offer Clear Creek in the semifinals. Clear Creek led 17-0 after a quarter and 28-0 at halftime en route to a 45-8 victory. Nine Lady Cats scored points, led by Elly Callihan with 14. Emma Deyton scored seven and Emma Calihan added six.
Clear Creek finished with the season with a x-x overall record and x-x mark in region play.