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Calhoun boys jump out to early lead, beat Roma

By BY WILL BROWN - WBROWN@VICAD.COM
Feb. 26, 2013 at 10:02 p.m.
Updated Feb. 26, 2013 at 8:27 p.m.

The Calhoun Sandcrabs pose with JV coach Allen Salena, left, and assistant varsity coach Robbie Vega after winning a playoff game versus the Roma Gladiators at Tuloso-Midway High School in Corpus Christi. The final score was 57-43.

CORPUS CHRISTI - The euphoria afterward was best explained in the post game meal of Popeye's chicken and ice cream.

Calhoun used a defense, unfamiliar to their opponents, to eliminate Roma 57-43 in a Class 4A regional quarterfinal contest Tuesday night.

Aaron Anderson hopes the celebratory meal will be out of his team's system by Friday night. But, for now, Calhoun's first year head coach is just as excited as his team to advance to the Class 4A regional tournament.

"It's definitely something rare for our school," said Cole Weaver, a junior guard for the Sandcrabs. "It's just great. ."

"It's breathtaking," interjected twin brother Chase Weaver. "I can't put it into words. We put so much work into it, and coach tells us every day is a grind."

Calhoun (25-10) will play Northside Brennan (37-2) Friday at 6 p.m. at the Blossom Athletic Center in San Antonio.

The Sandcrabs seemed to stretch every sinew on the defensive end. Roma scored just 11 points on two field goals in the first half, the Gladiators lowest output since the beginning of January.

"This was the first time we saw a zone in a couple of weeks, maybe a month," said Roma head coach Abelardo Escobar. "I think that zone slowed us up here and there. It forced us to become perimeter shooters. They had the big boy in there. When we shot and didn't make he was getting the rebound. I think that was the big difference, the zone."

The "big boy" Escobar referenced was Calhoun's Isaac Cardona. For the third straight playoff game, No. 32 led his team in scoring. This time the senior produced a game-high 19 points.

Players on both sides were aware of the threat Cardona, and counterpart Kevin Andrade possessed offensively. Afterward, both head coaches said it was the secondary starters who decided the game.

Calhoun's Taylor Lee scored 15 points and freshman Nelse Hypolite added four off the bench. Ryan Jackson drained a pair of 3-pointers. The Weaver twins provided valuable minutes in the second and third quarters when starting point guard Jason Alonzo was in foul trouble.

When Alonzo committed his third foul with 2:09 left in the first quarter, the Sandcrabs led 9-4. The team in white stretched the margin to 26-11 at halftime. Cole Weaver scored three of his five points during that 10-minute period Alonzo was in foul trouble.

"Coach believed in us," Cole Weaver said. "I have to believe in myself. I did have a couple of turnovers, but I did my part. I'm not a Jason Alonzo, but I will give the best I can."

Entering the contest, Roma's Kevin Andrade averaged 31.5 points per game in the playoffs. Tuesday, he scored 14 in a losing effort. The junior's first field goal was a floater just outside the lane with 6:05 left in the third quarter.

Lee broke down the defensive strategy succinctly: "hold down No. 40, box out, close out shooters and make hustle plays."

"I brought hustle. I tried to do my part, just like everyone else does their part," he said. "We came out and played hard on defense."

His head coach took it a bit further. Anderson was not surprised Calhoun's defense held the Gladiators (25-11) long enough for the Sandcrabs to maintain a double-digit lead for the final 21 minutes of the game.

"I believe in them," Anderson said. "It's just getting them to believe in themselves. It's about getting them to understand we've had moments like this all year long where we've been able to shut people down defensively."

In the end it was a Calhoun collective that helped the Sandcrabs advance to the regional tournament for the first time in five years.

"I told those guys 'We cannot just rely on (Cardona) to do everything,'" Anderson said. "'I know he's a great player, but we are better than that gentlemen and some of you guys are going to have to step up and shoulder that load because right now we are draining him and he won't have anything left for us later.'

"It was motivating and encouraging those guys that you're here for a reason and now is your time to step up and make something for us."

What the group will make Friday is a trip to the regional tournament. But, that is only after checking out the closest Popeye's for a Tuesday night celebration.

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