E.A. Sports Today

The longest day

Piedmont, Plainview battle through longest game in NE Regional history — 5 OTs — before Bears prevail


3 – Butler 69, Anniston 66 (boys), Feb. 22, 2008
3 – Guntersville 53, Cherokee County 51 (girls), Feb. 26, 2000
2 – Woodland 66, North Sand Mountain 62 (girls), Feb. 23, 2011

By Jason Katz
For East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – In 2015 the Piedmont Bulldogs beat Plainview by 17 points in the Northeast Regional semifinals at Pete Mathews Coliseum. One year later it was a “little” closer as the game went to five overtimes and was recorded as the longest Northeast Regional game in history.

When it was over, Plainview was the last man standing, beating the Bulldogs 74-65 to reach the regional finals for the first time.

This game was one not only for the record books, but one that defined a community that has never really had a taste of real basketball success.

“We are immensely proud of what we accomplished in this game,” Plainview coach Robi Coker said. “We thought that maybe we could use our depth to get an advantage, but overall it was a slugfest and Piedmont is a team of winners and we are glad we were able to get the win today.”

Plainview has played in the semifinals five times since 1996 without winning. Piedmont, meanwhile, has played six times since 2008 and is 8-4 in regional play.

The Bears (27-4) now can say they are going to the regional finals at a school where it has not always been the “cool thing” to play basketball.

“For years we struggled to get good players to come in and commit to this program because, honestly, basketball just was not the main priority at Plainview,” Coker said. “Now we have players who have been committed to the program and have really taken pride in what we are trying to accomplish. Today is just an example of all the hard work we have put in to making this program respectable.”

Piedmont (20-12) led by as many as nine points early in the game, but Plainview battled back to take the game to halftime trailing 24-21. The Bears fell back again in the second half, but began to chip away with excellent 3-point shooting by Jake Slay, who was 5-for-9 from behind the arc, and excellent post play by Will Kirk, who was 7-of-11 in the paint and contributed to the 54-54 score at the end of regulation.

As the game battled on — one overtime after another — there were heroes on both sides. Piedmont’s Darnell Jackson had multiple last-second layups to extend the game, while senior Bayley Blanchard left nothing on the court as he charged down in the paint to make key shots the entire game.

But as all good things must come to an end so did the game. Slay opened the fifth overtime with a 3 and Kirk hit four free throws to give the Bears the advantage and take the game. Piedmont failed to score in the fifth overtime.

“We fought back so many times and you cannot be anything but proud of our guys,” an exhausted Piedmont coach Tommy Lewis said. “This is a game you will remember for the rest of your lives and it would have been great to win, but we did not hit a lot of easy shots and had to work for it to make some tougher shots, but what can you say, we fought hard and came up short in the end.”

Piedmont’s Austin Brazier had 19 points and 12 rebounds over the nine periods of play. Darnell Jackson had 12 points, while Blanchard, in his last game as a Bulldog, had 10 points and eight rebounds.

“When you play five or six guys and you play so long it is hard to stay in it, but our guys did a great job overall,” Lewis said. “It is just a hard pill to swallow.”

Plainview was led by Slay’s 21 points and seven rebounds. Kirk had 18 points and 10 rebounds. Caden Millican scored 14.

The Bears have the best record in school history and will continue that pursuit against New Hope in the regional final Wednesday at 10:45 a.m.

“We will go back and rest and celebrate what we have accomplished so far,” Coker said. “And the rest … the rest will be nice after this game no doubt.”

Plainview 74, Piedmont 65 (5 OTs)

PLAINVIEW (27-4) – Jake Slay 8-14 0-0 21, Jeffrey Armstrong 4-9 1-1 11, Clay Cooper 3-12 1-4 8, Koby Tinker 0-6 0-2 0, Will Kirk 7-11 4-8 18, Caden Millican 5-12 0-1 14, Bailey Dukes 0-0 0-0 0, Cade Willingham 0-3 2-3 2, Dillon Scott 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-67 8-19 74.

PIEDMONT (20-12) – Darnell Jackson 5-10 0-0 12, Taylor Hayes 2-11 6-8 10, Easton Kirk 2-9 0-0 6, Bayley Blanchard 3-10 4-9 10, Austin Brazier 8-13 3-4 19, A.J. Fairs 1-2 0-0 2, Brett Akin 0-0 0-0 0, Cardavion Myers 3-3 0-0 6, Malik Gamble 0-1 0-0 0, Justin Young 0-0 0-0 0, Derrick Baer 0-2 0-0 0, T.J. Fairs 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-61 13-21 65.

Plainview 12 9 10 23 5 0 4 2 9 — 74
Piedmont 17 7 17 13 5 0 4 2 0 — 65

3-point goals: Plainview 12-36 (Slay 5-9, Armstong 2-6, Cooper 1-4, Tinker 0-5, Kirk 0-1, Millican 4-10, Willingham 0-1); Piedmont 4-15 (Jackson 2-4, Hayes 0-2, Kirk 2-6, Blanchard 0-2, A.J. Fairs 0-1). Rebounds: Plainview 43 (Kirk 10); Piedmont 45 (Brazier 12). Fouled out: Armstrong, Jackson. Total fouls: Plainview 18, Piedmont 22. Officials: Marvin Wesley, Phillip Mosely, Coy Southerland.

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