Party time: Calhoun Tigers win state title on J.D. Davison's last-second 3-pointer, plan long celebration
BIRMINGHAM — The mass of Calhoun fans waited anxiously on the concourse of the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center on Friday.
The Tigers, having already expended their jubilation several times, carefully climbed the stairs from the arena floor to join them.
And do it all over again.
The last in the stream — as if it would be anyone but four-star guard J.D. Davison — carried what they wanted to see. The fans waited like a newborn’s family outside the delivery room, meeting its arrival with cheers, screams and pictures.
Davison didn’t disappoint, hoisting it above them.
State championship trophies warrant such celebration.
“We’ve been waiting all year for it,” senior guard Spencer Johnson said after Calhoun won its first state title since 2003 with Friday’s 64-61 win over Barbour County.
“We said when we started practice that we were ring chasing,” Johnson said. “We said we had to get a ring.”
The Tigers (21-12) started a winding road of celebration that only began at the BJCC.
They promised that it would continue into Saturday night.
Coach Ervin Starr planned a stop to see the family of slain Lowndes County sheriff “Big John” Williams. The players promised any antics Saturday night would not cause more work for Williams’ deputies.
The Lowndes County longtime sheriff was murdered while answering a call the night of Nov. 23.
“We wanted to make him proud, and we wanted to make his family proud,” Starr said. “I think we did that.”
The traditional Calhoun championship parade — after Fort Deposit and Hayneville haggle over who gets to host it — has been scheduled for March 7.
The rings will arrive sometime in the spring, the new team picture will take its place on the Calhoun gym lobby wall, and the Tigers will smile all over again.
“I’m not going to sleep tonight. No sleep,” Davison promised. “I’m going to celebrate, but I’m not going to get into any trouble.”
Years from now, the smiles will continue when the Tigers — including all their fans — reminisce over Davison’s winning shot.
His tiebreaking, step-back 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds remaining lifted Calhoun to euphoria.
The Tigers, coming out of a timeout with 1:03 remaining, held for the last shot. Davison, guarded by Barbour County’s Willie Screws, drove toward the lane, stepped back and hit the biggest 3-pointer of his life.
“The guy guarding me had four fouls, so I knew I was going to drive,” Davison said. “Then I stepped back and shot it with confidence.”
Davison couldn’t fathom what 3-pointer in his life now ranks second on his all-time list. He had no answers.
Consider it the biggest in Calhoun history, too.
“Does it matter?” Starr said. “Whatever it is, it doesn’t compare to this.”
Starr broke down crying — much to his players’ surprise — when talking about Calhoun’s accomplishment. The Tigers reached last year’s state semifinals and had just one contributor (Davison) who returned.
“Everybody up here was told they couldn’t do it, but they never gave up on each other,” Starr said. “When they say they’re a family, they’re a family.”
Starr last cried in public in 2000 when his father died, he said. The Tigers said they had never seen him so emotional.
“When he started to cry, I thought I was going to cry,” senior Demareus Cheatham said. “He always says he keeps his composure, but he didn’t there.”
Maybe they’ll all cry at the parade, wherever it may be.
The Tigers started the tradition after a 2001 championship and continued it in 2003. The first was in Fort Deposit and the second in Hayneville.
“It’s good to see this happen,” said retired AHSAA Hall of Fame coach Jim Hunter, who was at the BJCC on Friday and who was the coach in both 2001 and 2003.
“I’ve been looking for this to happen for two years now,” Hunter said. “I had to wait two years, but it was worth the wait.”
Hunter joked that it is “Fort Deposit’s turn.”
“You’re going to have to come down and see me,” Davison, who is from Fort Deposit, said to Johnson, who is from Hayneville and who initially expressed disapproval.
“Really, I don’t have a problem with that,” Johnson said. “Everybody is in the family down there.”
Davison finished with 32 points on 12-of-22 shooting with 10 rebounds Friday. LaDarren Mason added 11 points, while Trayvon Brown grabbed 11 rebounds. Cheatham and Johnson scored nine points each.
Davison was 2-for-4 on 3-pointers.
“A player of that caliber, you want him to take that shot,” Starr said. “He doesn’t shoot 3s well, but he was 100% on that one.”
Ralpheal Williams and Javier Walker scored 15 points each for Barbour County (26-11). Screws finished with 14 points.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter A. Stacy Long at firstname.lastname@example.org