Calhoun boys two wins from GHSA basketball state title after defensive-minded victory

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Calhoun threw a block party Wednesday night in the quarterfinal round of the GHSA Class AAAAA boys' basketball state tournament.

The Yellow Jackets had a dozen blocked shots and altered several more while defeating visiting Woodland-Henry 66-56 to secure a spot in the state semifinals. They will play Tri-Cities at 8 p.m. Saturday at Fort Valley State University.

Dylan Faulkner, a 6-foot-8 junior, had seven blocks to go with a game-high 23 points, with 10 coming in a pivotal third quarter in which Calhoun outscored the fifth-ranked visitors 21-12 to take control after playing to a 27-27 halftime tie.

"We didn't make a whole lot of adjustments at the half," Calhoun coach Vince Layson said. "One of the key things we did was switch some of the matchups in our man-to-man (defense). No. 11 for them (Mason Lewis) had 10 or 12 in the first half, and we knew he was one of their main guys, so we put Peyton Law on him, and at 6-7 he gives us more length, and I don't believe he scored in the second half."

The quarter also turned on hustle plays as the seventh-ranked Jackets (22-6) extended their defense, which forced several quick Woodland shots, and did great work on the offensive boards, resulting in six putback points.

Law, who had 18 points and three blocks, and Faulkner had putbacks and the changed-up Calhoun defense forced three early turnovers to key a 12-0 run to start the second half. The Wolfpack (24-6) rallied to cut the Jackets' lead to three early in the final quarter as Ky'ree Brown and Christian Watkins combined for all 11 points in an 11-5 run.

The hosts, though, scored the next eight points to go up nine before Woodland put up six straight to close within three with 1:51 left. A turnover, though, led to a Jaylan Harris dunk to spark a killing 6-0 run by Calhoun.

"Our work defensively was huge tonight," Layson said. "I'm not sure how many shots we blocked, but Dylan Faulkner had several, and the ones he did not block, he altered. We had a matchup where he didn't have to guard a lot one-on-one, so we were able to have a 6-8 kid with long arms waiting on them when they got in the lane."

Brendan Gray and Harris each added eight points for Calhoun, with Watkins leading Woodland with 21.

Contact Lindsey Young at Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.