E.A. Sports Today

Piedmont boys clinch area

Bulldogs grab winner-take-all game to host area tournament; Piedmont girls hold on, await coin toss with PV

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

WEAVER — Taylor Hayes could have been somewhere else, eating a big steak and having another spotlight shone on his broad football shoulders, but there was no place he’d rather have been Monday night than with his teammates.

Hayes, Piedmont’s exceptional junior quarterback, was among the honorees at a big football banquet in Birmingham Monday, but his Bulldogs basketball team had a big game, too.

Where did eventually land? He was on the basketball court helping the Bulldogs clinch home-court advantage for the upcoming Class 3A Area 12 boys basketball tournament in a 64-53 victory over Weaver.

Hayes, the state’s Class 3A Back of the Year, said he was honored to be named 3A Player of the Year by one of the Birmingham television stations. Piedmont football coach Steve Smith accepted on his behalf.

“It wasn’t that hard (a decision to make),” Hayes said. “Me and Coach Smith talked and I talked to (basketball) Coach (Tommy) Lewis. I had already missed practice one day for that (Mr. Football) Back of the Year luncheon, so I just felt like Coach Smith could go down there and accept my award for me, so it wouldn’t be a big deal to miss that, especially if we had a chance to clinch home court for the area tournament.

“I needed to be here; it’s what I needed to do. I’m honored I won that, but I’d rather be with my boys playing basketball, beating Weaver any day of the week … I don’t even know if they needed me to beat them, really, but I was here.”

Hayes scored 14 points and wasn’t even their leading scorer, but he did provide strength and power to the Bulldogs’ lineup and was a force around the goal. Bayley Blanchard led the Bulldogs with 20 points. Austin Brazier had 16 points.

Weaver coach Daryl Hamby knew Hayes’ situation and expected him to play all along.

“We were hoping he was someplace else,” Hamby said with a chuckle. “He does make a difference, a big difference. He’s a matchup problem because he’s so strong and he plays smart, and once he gets his mitts on the ball he doesn’t give it up.”

Brazier said it was a good feeling knowing Hayes was going to be there.

“It was his decision, nobody made him come back,” Brazier said. “It just shows the respect he has for us and how much he wants to win. He’s one of our better players and better scorers; we needed him tonight and he showed up.”

Weaver, meanwhile, came into the game severely short-handed for various reasons. The Bearcats were without guards Delo Forbes and Jalen Heath all game, and didn’t have Ducky Morris and Craig Copeland available until the second half.

The Bulldogs scored 17 straight points in the first quarter to open a 19-5 lead, but despite its limitations Weaver battled back and got within 45-43 with 5:40 to play.

Piedmont then hit six of eight free throws on its next four possessions to go back up by eight and never led by fewer than five the rest of the game. The Bearcats’ best post player, Malik Arnold, fouled out during that run.

“We were down some men, but I loved the guys who were out there and how hard they played,” Hamby said. “You’ve got Dalton (Hamby), R.J. (Wooden), Dane (Akers), London Knight … great experience out there.

“Good team in Piedmont. We never gave up. We kept firing away and kept pushing. I thought we played hard; that’s all you can ask for. We competed all the way through tonight; that’s what I love about us.”

Piedmont 64, Weaver 53

PIEDMONT – A.J. Fairs 0 0-0 0, Darnell Jackson 3 0-0 7, Taylor Hayes 5 4-6 14, Easton Kirk 2 3-5 7, Bayley Blanchard 6 7-13 20, Austin Brazier 5 5-7 16. Totals 21 19-31 64.

WEAVER – Craig Copeland 0 3-4 3, Paul Hubbard 4 1-2 9, London Knight 3 4-6 10, Dalton Hamby 2 0-0 4, R.J. Wooden 1 0-0 2, Maurice Goodman 3 1-2 8, Gio Mosley 3 0-2 8, Malik Arnold 3 3-5 9. Totals 19 12-21 53.

Piedmont 22 13 8 21 — 64
Weaver 13 9 14 17 — 53

3-point goals: Piedmont 3 (Jackson, Blanchard, Brazier); Weaver 3 (Goodman, Mosley 2). Fouled out: Arnold. Total fouls: Piedmont 15, Weaver 26. Officials: Kelley, Wilson, Hughes.

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