E.A. Sports Today

Piedmont holds on in thriller

Bulldogs survive late Weaver charge, advance to host sub-regional game

By East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT — At this point in the basketball season life for a team becomes a matter of survive and advance, and Piedmont did both in winning the Class 3A Area 12 championship Saturday night.

The Bulldogs survived another close encounter with Weaver, winning 72-70 on their own floor, and advanced to the Northeast sub-regional where they will host Ohatchee Tuesday night. Weaver will travel to Westbrook Christian.

“You know the things you say, ‘survive and advance’ and ‘you can’t win it unless you’re in it,’ both of those hold true for us,” Piedmont coach Tommy Lewis said. “For the fans it was a great game, but no part of it was good for me.

“It was just a shootout. Thank gosh we had a little lead before it got going; they probably outplayed us the last three minutes.”

The Bulldogs (19-11) had a reasonably comfortable lead on Weaver until the closing minutes of the game. They led by 12 in the fourth quarter, but it took two free throws by Bayley Blanchard with 15 seconds left to make it a two-possession game and then they still had to survive the precarious final moments.

After Blanchard’s free throws, Delo Forbes hit a basket to make it 72-70. Taylor Hayes went to the line with five seconds left with a chance to seal it for the Bulldogs, but missed both free throws.

The rebound off the second fell on the opposite side of Forbes. The Bearcats could only throw it down the floor and into the corner to Dane Akers, who just entered the game, and he couldn’t get a shot off under the Bulldogs’ trap.

The Bearcats rallied behind a big fourth quarter from Forbes. Returning from a one-game suspension following a very public display of frustration in the final regular-season game, Forbes scored 17 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth. Craig Copeland and Paul Hubbard both had 13 points for the Bearcats.

“When you come back from that, one of two things is going to happen,” Lewis said. “He’s either going to try too hard and do poorly or have a great game; that’s what we were afraid of. In the fourth quarter he just had a great quarter for a player.”

It was the fourth time the Bulldogs have beaten Weaver this season, but the last two — both in tournament settings — have been decided by a total of five points. Of the four No. 1 seeds in the Class 3A areas that feed the Northeast Regional at Jacksonville State, Piedmont is the only one to survive.

Blanchard finished with 15 points, nine assists, four rebounds and four steals. Tyler Lusk led the Bulldogs with a season-high 19 points, nine rebounds, three steals and two assists. Darnell Jackson scored 12 before fouling out.

Piedmont 72, Weaver 70

WEAVER — Delo Forbes 8 8-11 27, Jaylen Heath 3 0-0 7, Craig Copeland 5 2-2 13, Paul Hubbard 5 3-4 13, Elliott Moore 1 2-4 4, R.J. Wooden 0 0-0 0, Camron Lynch 1 0-0 2, Malik Arnold 2 0-0 4, Dane Akers 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 15-21 70.

PIEDMONT (19-11) — Darnell Jackson 5 1-1 12, Taylor Hayes 3 1-4 7, Tyler Lusk 6 5-5 19, Easton Kirk 1 0-0 3, Bayley Blanchard 4 7-11 15, Austin Brazier 3 3-4 9, Neonta Alexander 1 0-0 2, C.J. Savage 2 0-3 5. Totals 25 17-28 72.

Weaver 12 18 15 25 — 70
Piedmont 11 23 20 18 — 72

3-point goals: Weaver 5 (Forbes 3, Heath, Copeland); Piedmont 5 (Savage, Kirk, Jackson, Lusk 2). Total fouls: Weaver 23, Piedmont 15. Fouled out: Arnold, Jackson. Officials: Guyton, Williams, Welcher.



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