E.A. Sports Today

Bulldogs go deep

Piedmont plays everybody in reaching finals of area tournament, second unit shines

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT — They may be the team’s second group but there’s nothing second-string about them.

And collectively they might have played their best game of the year.

Piedmont opened the Class 3A Area 12 boys tournament with a thorough 88-53 mauling of Wellborn Thursday night. The Bulldogs (18-11) will play second-seeded Weaver for the area title Saturday night.

Everybody on the roster played for the Bulldogs and 11 of the 15 scored. Austin Brazier led the way with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Bayley Blanchard had 15.

But the Bulldogs’ second group of A.J. Fairs, Brett Akin, Cardavian Myers, Malik Gamble and Derrick Baer was similarly impressive. To a man, from coach Tommy Lewis down, it was said they played their best game of the year and in some aspects were sharper than the starters.

Four of the five scored, combining for 24 points on 8-of-25 shooting. They had 16 of the team’s 50 rebounds, four assists and three steals. They all went in as a group each quarter and advanced the lead before coming out.

Fairs said every time the second group goes into the game it has to do something to impress their coach. Safe to say playing “the best we’ve done as a bunch,” it did that against the Panthers.

“What we’ve tried to do over the years is let each group have an identity,” Lewis said. “We’ve found a lot of times you get all five of them in there, there’s a chemistry they’ve got in practice you can’t recreate.

“Plus, there’s a little pride in there for them, too. A lot of time we tell them you’re going out with this much of a lead, as long as it stays this much you’re OK and you get to play. A lot of times it motivated them to play defense more than it does offense.

“Tonight they went out and gave us a big spark. That first group’s play was kind of draggy, and that second group went in there and did some of the things we were talking about doing and did them right, so I think the first group looked at them and said we’ve got to get on it.”

The second group made their presence felt right away. Fairs and Myers hit back-to-back 3s to give the Bulldogs a 20-11 first-quarter lead. The next time they went Myers scored five straight points and Fairs added a free throw to push the lead past 20 for the first time.

The deep reserves got into the act late in the third quarter.

“I just think all five us wanted to come in and help the team out and do our job and put some points on the board,” Myers said. “Today we did it better than we have in any other game. It feels pretty good.”

Blake Hanson led Wellborn (4-15) with 25 points. Jordan Montgomery had 13 — all in the second half.

The winner of Saturday’s game will host Glencoe in the subregional round, while the loser will travel to top-ranked Westbrook Christian.

Piedmont 88, Wellborn 53

WELLBORN (4-15) – D.J. Rhoden 0 0-0 0, Mitchell Raines 1 0-0 3, Eric Johnson 0 0-0 0, Quindarius Moore 4 0-3 8, Ty Kite 0 0-0 0, Jordan Montgomery 5 2-3 13, Junior Towns 0 0-0 0, Jaylin Kelley 2 0-0 4, Blake Hanson 10 3-4 25. Totals 22 5-10 53.

PIEDMONT (18-11) – A.J. Fairs 2 1-4 7, Darnell Jackson 3 4-4 11, Taylor Hayes 3 0-0 6, Brett Akin 0 0-0 0, Easton Kirk 2 1-2 6, Cardavian Myers 2 3-4 9, Malik Gamble 2 01- 4, Bayley Blanchard 6 3-8 15, Austin Brazier 7 3-4 17, Justin Young 0 0-0 0, Derrick Baer 2 0-0 4, Darian Bossie 0 0-0 0, T.J. Fairs 2 0-0 6, Carl Myers 1 1-2 3, Kardon Jenkins 0 0-0 0. Totals 32 16-29 88.

Wellborn 11 13 14 15 — 53
Piedmont 20 30 18 20 — 88

3-point goals: Wellborn (Raines, Montgomery, Hanson 2); Piedmont 8 (A. Fairs 2, Jackson, Kirk, Myers 2, T. Fairs 2). Fouled out: Raines. Total fouls: Wellborn 21, Piedmont 8. Officials: Howell, Kelley, Miller.

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