0108 We2 ECHS girls hoops

Caleb Turrentine / Tallapoosa Publishers Elmore County’s (23) defends Wetumpka’s Janae McCall (20) during Friday’s semifinal in the Elmore County Tournament.

As the Elmore County Tournament girls championship game entered the fourth quarter, there was one Wetumpka starter who had yet to make an impact on the offensive end of the court. But in a close rivalry game with a trophy on the line, there was never a doubt she was going to show up eventually.

With her team trailing by four points early in the final frame, Wetumpka’s Janae McCall made her first basket since the opening quarter after grabbing an offensive rebound which brought some life to her offense and her team. She went on to make three more shots over the next three minutes to lead a 12-1 run which Wetumpka into the lead for good.

Wetumpka closed out the 57-53 win over Stanhope Elmore and McCall went on to be named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

“Once Janae gets going and she locks in on defense, it makes our team go,” Wetumpka coach Jermel Bell said. “She is that extra person that rolls with Morgan (Causey). Morgan is our defensive catalyst and Janae is the offensive catalyst who drives our ship. When she gets going, it’s motivating for the entire team. It gives everybody some confidence.”

It was the team’s third game in as many days which affected McCall’s minutes in the title game but she was ready once crunch time arrived. McCall finished with just nine points in the championship game, her lowest output of the tournament, but seven of them came in the fourth quarter as she fought through any fatigue that may have been there.

“It was tiring but on the second night, I took an ice bath and that helped because I knew I had to be ready,” McCall said. “I have been ready for Stanhope since we lost to them in the tournament last year.”

Wetumpka opened the tournament against Tallassee and while McCall and her teammates started slowly, they still came away with a blowout victory. McCall, who finished with 12 points and six steals, scored six in a third quarter which Wetumpka outscored the Tigers 19-3 to end any hopes of a comeback.

“She plays great defense and turns that defense into offense,” Bell said. “Once she sees the ball go through the hoop, that confidence can really grow. I think that’s what happened to her.”

McCall also made some noise on the glass as she was one of the leading rebounders for Wetumpka during the three tournament games. She turned that rebounding into offense in the semifinal victory against Elmore County as she recorded a double-double (22 points, 11 rebounds) which included 12 second chance points after grabbing an offensive rebound.

“The first night, I wasn’t focused for real,” McCall said. “I wanted to be prepared for the next game. I knew I had to bring my A-Game. That helped me get motivated.”

Wetumpka now sits with an 11-3 record as it gets ready for area play. With McCall’s game stepping up on both ends of the court, Bell is confident the team can keep the momentum going.

“You knew at some point she was going to break out and we have said that since the beginning of the year,” Bell said. “She struggled in the first three or four games of the season but she’s starting to get going. The tournaments over the holidays have been that time and that’s been a positive within the team as a whole.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.