E.A. Sports Today

Piedmont runs into buzz saw

Bulldogs fall way behind Madison Academy in first half of title game, keep it respectable in second

Piedmont's Darnell Jackson (10) goes to the basket against Madison Academy's Josh Langford in Friday's Class 3A boys championship game. Darnell was Piedmont's leading scorer, while Langford was the tournament MVP. (Photo by Shannon Fagan).

Piedmont’s Darnell Jackson (10) goes to the basket against Madison Academy’s Josh Langford in Friday’s Class 3A boys championship game. Darnell was Piedmont’s leading scorer, while Langford was the tournament MVP. (Photo by Shannon Fagan).

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

BIRMINGHAM — Piedmont coach Tommy Lewis knew his team was facing a tough assignment.

The Bulldogs met a Madison Academy team that was pretty much at the top of its game Friday — as it had been in every sport the schools have met in post-season play — and had their hopes of winning a first state championship dashed 75-51 in the Class 3A boys title game at the BJCC.

Piedmont’s Darnell Jackson scored the first of his team-high 17 points to open the scoring, but then it was all Madison Academy.

The Mustangs scored the next 13 points and opened leads of 22-7 in the first quarter and 44-17 at halftime. They put four scorers in double figures, led by tournament MVP Josh Langford.

“I thought they came out and played really hard early, but didn’t get a couple shots to go and once (Madison Academy) got a little breathing room, they’re such a good team with breathing room, you just can’t do that,” Lewis said. “It wasn’t that we weren’t doing good things, we didn’t get very many results from the good things.

“They’re a very, very tough team to play if they get their rhythm. We knew once we got a little bit behind it was going to be tough.”

The Mustangs (19-12), 4-8 at one point this season, were sharp from the start. They hit seven 3-pointers in the first half, 10 in the game.

They shot 54 percent from the field for the game, while the Bulldogs (23-12) shot 32 percent after hitting only five of 25 in the first half. Piedmont was 2 of 18 from behind the arc.

Jackson and Taylor Hayes, Piedmont’s two all-tournament picks, had 17 and 14 points, respectively.

The title was Madison Academy’s second in three years, fifth since 2006 and fourth under coach Andy Blackston. Piedmont was playing in its first state title basketball game since 1936.

Langford led the Mustangs with 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. They had three other double figure scorers. Eight players added at least one assist to the team’s 17 total.

“Since I got at Madison Academy I wanted to build a program that could play at a high level year after year and … I felt tonight was the culmination of that,” Blackston said. “I was proud of how our guys played together tonight.

“I got chill bumps on the sidelines because I got into watching the (San Antonio) Spurs play a lot. I told the guys all during the year I want to be (Coach Gregg) Popovich and I want you guys to be the Spurs, and tonight it felt like that when that ball was moving and moving to the most open guy to take the best shot. That’s the best present they could give me, buying into the vision of team basketball. It was fun to watch.”

What do you say to your team when it’s down by 27 at halftime and the opponent shows no sign of letting up? Lewis appealed to his players’ sense of respect for the season they had and the fans who came to see them — and they responded.

The Bulldogs doubled their first-half point production in the second half, outscoring the Mustangs 34-31. Hayes had 10 of his points in the second half.

“What happens in these championship games, kind of a mindset takes over that once it’s over, it’s kind of a free-for-all,” Lewis said. “I said don’t do that. Let’s just keep playing and if we can turn it to 15, let’s turn it to 15. It shouldn’t be 27 and turn into 37 and play the sympathy thing; I hate seeing teams do that.

“If it turns out to be a bunch of guys who’s chunking shots like it’s over, those games are tough on fans, on the other coaches. I think we played better ‘team’ in the second half. We got no closer to them in real terms, but it didn’t expand any more.

“When you get on this big court and it feels like you’re in quicksand and you look up and see your dreams blow away, a lot of times the head drops and it gets worse. Let’s not make it worse. You played hard all year long, finish hard.”

Madison Academy 75, Piedmont 51

PIEDMONT (23-12) – Darnell Jackson 7-12 2-2 17, Taylor Hayes 5-13 4-6 14, Tyler Lusk 0-7 3-4 3, Bayley Blanchard 2-9 2-9 6, Austin Brazier 0-4 2-2 2, Easton Kirk 0-3 0-0 0, Caradavian Myers 0-0 0-0 0, Malik Gamble 0-0 0-0 0, Neonta Alexander 1-2 0-0 2, Derrick Baer 1-1 0-0 3, CJ Savage 2-3 0-0 4, Cody Daughtry 0-1 0-0 0, Brett Akin 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-56 13-23 51.

MADISON ACADEMY (19-12) – Myles Parker 6-9 0-0 12, Josh Langford 6-13 6-7 19, KeKe Matthews 1-3 0-0 3, Will Acuff 4-7 0-0 11, Chandler Mussleman 2-2 0-0 6, Adam Hairston 0-1 0-0 0, Jaelin Ferdinand 1-3 0-0 3, Zak Meredith 2-5 0-0 5, Jack Fulkerson 0-0 0-0 0, Collin Blanchard 0-0 0-0 0, Cole Tomlinson 4-4 2-3 11, Isaac Tillman 1-3 0-0 2, Calvin Walker 0-0 0-0 0, Avery Branner 1-2 1-2 3. Totals 28-52 9-12 75.

Piedmont 7 10 19 15 — 51
Madison Academy 22 22 17 14 — 75

3-point goals: Piedmont 2-18 (Jackson 1-3, Lusk 0-5, Blanchard 0-3, Brazier 0-2, Kirk 0-2, Alexander 0-1, Baer 1-1, Savage 0-1); Madison Academy 10-21 (Parker 0-1, Langford 1-3, Matthews 1-2, Acuff 3-6, Mussleman 2-2, Ferdinand 1-2, Meredith 1-4, Tomlinson 1-1). Rebounds: Piedmont 27 (Blanchard 6); Madison Academy 41 (Langford 12). Total fouls: Piedmont 13, Madison Academy 21. Officials: Hargreaves, Barnett, Booker.

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