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Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Stanhope Elmore’s Trey Killingsworth (1) draws a foul against Calhoun’s Trey Jones.

Even during a global pandemic, Calhoun’s JD Davison has become a must-see event for basketball fans in the state of Alabama and that was on full display in Millbrook on Friday night. Some fans had to be turned away at the doors before the ball was tipped off due to the AHSAA’s capacity limit as Stanhope Elmore hosted Davison and the Tigers in the final game of a busy opening week for both teams.

Davison was the highlight of the night from the opening tip to the final buzzer as the Alabama signee finished with 45 points as Calhoun defeated Stanhope Elmore 82-68. The defeat was the second in as many days for the Mustangs as they fell to 1-2 on the young season.

“That’s a great team over there and they were state champions for a reason,” SEHS coach David Cochran said. “Our guys competed really well but I think we ran out of gas a little bit. That’s part of it this time of the year but I like how they competed. I think we took a step in the right direction but none of us are going to be satisfied.”

It felt like a home game for Calhoun at times as the crowd often rose in anticipation for what Davison was going to do next and he delivered with some deep 3-pointers and a few highlight dunks, including an in-between-the-legs slam on a fast break. When the Mustangs seemed to get sluggish in the middle of the game, Davison took advantage and extended Calhoun’s lead to as many as 24 points with a 20-point performance in the third quarter alone.

“JD is one of the best athletes I have seen in my life,” Cochran said. “You have to tip your cap to him. He’s a once-in-a-generation type of a player.”

Stanhope Elmore kept fighting against the reigning Class 2A champions but the Mustangs had to go without two key players as Dylon Williams and Teddy Harris were sidelined with injuries.

“It’s always going to be next man up mentality for our team,” Cochran said. “And that’s here early. Our young guys have done a really good job competing and they still have a lot to learn. We’re going to keep getting better and move this thing in the right direction.”

The Mustangs had to turn to their other reliable options at the offensive end to try to keep up with Calhoun’s fire power. Jay Tillman led the hosts with 20 points and got some of the biggest cheers from the home fans while often matching up against Davison at both ends of the floor.

“He’s a leader and he wants to be in moments like that,” Cochran said. “He wants the ball in his hands and he wants that pressure on him because that’s when he thrives.”

Tillman was also the main facilitator of the offense, finishing with five steals to help the Mustangs break in transition and dishing out four assists. Pat Williams added 18 points while Trey Killingsworth had the hot hand from the outside, finishing with 12 points.

While the crowd was limited inside the gym, you could not tell based off the excitement and energy the fans in attendance had. Cochran now just wants to challenge his fan base to bring that kind of atmosphere for the rest of the home games this season.

“The goal here at Stanhope Elmore is for the gym to be like that on a regular basis,” Cochran said. “The buzz around here this week and the buzz in this gym tonight was electric. It made all of our guys play better too because they really felt it.”

After winning its season opener against Marbury, Stanhope Elmore dropped two straight games to end the week but the team is still taking plenty of positives and believes there is a lot to build on moving forward.

“We have definitely gotten better on the defensive end this week,” Cochran said. “Our kids are putting in more effort and starting to do the little things right. The two biggest things I wanted to see when I took over was defense and rebounding and I think those are the two biggest things we have improved so far. We want to keep getting better and not get complacent.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.