Braves edge Grambling, now 6-5 in SWAC

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 11, 2003

LORMAN &045; Dion Callans came to Alcorn on a football scholarship.

He had all intentions of being a two-sport star for the Braves. While things fell through on the gridiron, Callans &045; a junior &045; is beginning to bloom on the hardwood.

With Lee Cook no longer with the team, and Rhau-Chavis Landfair still maturing into the starting center role, the 6-foot-8 Callans is just what the doctor ordered for Braves head coach Davey Whitney.

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On Monday, Callans had his best game yet, scoring a career-high 21 points and attaining his first collegiate double-double with 11 rebounds in Alcorn’s 88-79 win over Grambling State to get above .500 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

&uot;My role hasn’t changed that much, I just want to establish myself and be a lot more vocal on this team,&uot; said Callans, a Chicago-native. &uot;I’m taking Chavis under my wing and if we can maintain (Brian Jackson’s) focus will be all right.&uot;

Jackson led the Braves with 22 points, but it was Callans’ emotions &045; both on the court and from the bench &045; that ushered Alcorn (8-15, 6-5 SWAC) to the victory.

Down by as many as 10 in the second half, Alcorn had to hold on for the win, sinking its final six free throws in the game’s last minute as one-time SWAC Player of the Week Paul Haynes had the Tigers (8-14, 5-6) within a bucket late.

Up 11 with more than seven minutes to go, the Braves watched Grambling trim their lead to three, 73-70, when a Brion Rush trey capped off an 8-0 run.

But it was also Rush, a freshman guard, who turned the ball over with less than four minutes to play, leading to a Jason Cable jumper and nixing any Tiger momentum.

&uot;Down the stretch you have to have experience at the guard play to execute and we didn’t have it,&uot; Tiger head coach Larry Wright said. &uot;That’s something that we need, especially if you want to win on the road in this league.&uot;

As the second half opened, the Tigers hovered over their meal as they attacked Alcorn and built a 10-point lead, 48-38, when Rush connected on 3-pointer in the first minute.

The double-digit Brave deficit soon became seven on a Callans’ bucket, then four on a Jackson trey and before you knew it, Alcorn was atop 58-53 when Callans dropped in a layup at the 13:01 mark.

&uot;The last couple of ballgames we get down to teams, but we’re able to stick it out until the clock reads zero, zero, zero, zero,&uot; Callans said. &uot;Coach had a one-on-one conversation with me and asked me to step it up. I can’t do anything, but deliver.&uot;

Even with Callans getting a breather his presence was still felt, whether it was cheering on Fred Cole’s successful trip to the line with 11:44 left or barking out defensive advice to Jason Cable while Grambling was at the line.

Down three, Grambling’s Jamar Lewis sent a quiet crowd into oohs and ahs when he exploded from behind the 3-point line, into the lane, past the Braves’ defense and dunked over two Alcorn players. Fouled on the one-handed flush, Lewis’ conversion of the 3-point play tied the game 60-apiece with 10:54 left.

Jackson staked Alcorn back out to a 5-point lead, 67-62, with 7 straight points.

Haynes, who finished with a game-high 25 points, was good on a 3-point play with 37.8 seconds left to draw the Tigers closer, 79-77. But that was as close as Grambling got.

Callans, who had 11 first-half points, is a third installment of players accepting more prominent roles on Whitney’s team since the removal of Cook. Callans, Jackson and guard Alleo Frazier have all assumed the spotlight in Alcorn’s current three-game winning streak.

&uot;If you’ve got eight pigs, but only one ear of corn, you can’t just give that ear to your favorite pig,&uot; Whitney said. &uot;You have to give a kernel to each one. We’ve got different guys who can do different things and everybody is playing well now.&uot;

Leading by as many as seven in the first half, Alcorn found itself down five, 34-29, with 5:42 before halftime. A Callans’ layup knotted the score at 36 and Alcorn took its fourth lead of the first half, 37-36, less than a minute late when Jackson hit one-of-two free throws.

Grambling reclaimed the lead with second and third offensive opportunities in the half’s last minute.