E.A. Sports Today

Bulldogs take bite out of Raiders

Piedmont opens a big lead early, then coach makes wholesale substitutions and the good times keep rolling

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT – Maybe it was playing in the friendly confines of their well-lighted gym that did it. Or maybe it was memory of what happened to them the first time the teams played. Or perhaps they were finally getting their basketball legs.

Whatever the reason, Piedmont responded Tuesday night with what coach Tommy Lewis called the best (first) half of basketball of the season and some even called their best game of the year in overrunning Pleasant Valley 81-40.

The Bulldogs were as smooth as a team could be in running up a 30-point halftime lead. They ran waves of players into the game without missing a beat. The starters forged a 20-5 lead, then Lewis replaced the entire group and the reserves carried them to a 44-13 lead at the break.

“It was basically the combination of us getting beat at Pleasant Valley and the way they did us, storming the court; we didn’t like it that too much,” said Austin Brazier, who scored 11 of his 16 points in the first-quarter onslaught. “I felt good going in, my legs felt rested and I wanted revenge, really; that’s all it was.”

The teams met the first time in what was Piedmont’s second game of the year, a week after the Bulldogs won the Class 3A state football championship, and the Raiders pulled off the upset that had the local basketball community buzzing.

Lewis apologized for his arrogance in believing his players could simply “go down there and tough it out and find some way to win.” While acknowledging the Raiders played an excellent game that afternoon, he’s still convinced the Bulldogs would have won the six-point game if “we had done the smart things.”

It wasn’t that the Bulldogs just lost an early area game and the Raiders celebrated in front of them, it was the way they lost. Normally a sharp shooting team from the outside, they were 0-for-19 from 3-point range in the game and 3-for-15 from the foul line.

In Tuesday’s rematch, six Bulldogs combined to bury 11 3-pointers – Taylor Hayes hit four – and the team made 12 of 18 free throws. Nine of the 11 players who got in the game for Piedmont (8-6) scored.

And it wasn’t limited to the starters. Of course, four of them scored in double figures, but when Lewis replaced them with a group that included Cardavion Myers, Justin Young, Derick Baer, Malik Gamble and A.J. Fairs, the good times continued to roll.

Fairs, a junior, hit two 3-pointers in the second quarter and finished with eight points. Baer had five points in the second half. The non-starters had 20 altogether.

“The first group all week was telling us to practice hard … because what happened over there really hurt them,” Fairs said. “They wanted us to go out there and play hard. I just wanted to get in there and work my tail off.”

They needed to get the Raiders (5-9) back to have any shot at winning the area and hosting the area tournament. They face another area test Friday against Weaver.

“We definitely needed this win; it was a must win for us,” Brazier said. “It helped with our pride. I know everybody in the locker room they have a bunch of pride and they didn’t like losing to Pleasant Valley there, especially with them rushing the court, so definitely it was a must win for us today.”

Piedmont 81, Pleasant Valley 40

PLEASANT VALLEY (5-9) – Josh Preston 1 0-0 2, Caden Turner 0 0-0 0, Riley Vernon 3 0-0 9, Britton Proper 0 0-0 0, Marshall Smith 1 0-1 2, Josh Faucett 6 2-2 15, Reid Hightower 1 0-0 3, Nick Robbins 1 0-0 2, Jordan Lambert 0 0-0 0, Cantor Knight 2 0-0 4, Chase Craven 1 0-0 3. Totals 16 2-3 40.

PIEDMONT (8-6) – A.J. Fairs 2 2-2 8, Darnell Jackson 4 2-3 11, Taylor Hayes 5 0-0 14, Brett Akin 0 0-0 0, Easton Kirk 4 4-4 14, Malik Gamble 2 0-0 4, Bayley Blanchard 2 2-4 6, Austin Brazier 7 2-5 16, Justin Young 1 0-0 3, Derick Baer 2 0-0 5. Totals 29 12-18 81.

Pleasant Valley 7 6 21 6 — 40
Piedmont 24 20 19 18 — 81

3-point goals: PV 6 (Vernon 3, Faucett, Hightower, Craven); Piedmont 11 (Fairs 2, Jackson, Hayes 4, Kirk 2, Young, Baer). Total fouls: PV 11, Piedmont 6. Officials: James Wright, Eric Wilson, Lamont Davis.



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