E.A. Sports Today

Cold out, hot inside

Cherokee County hits 14 3-pointers, but it was Edwards’ late free throws that sealed the victory over Piedmont; girls rally from slow start

By Shannon Fagan
Special to East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT – The temperature was in the mid-20s Saturday afternoon when the game tipped, but Cherokee County guards Colin Edwards and Kyle Burgess did their best to heat things up on the basketball court.

Edwards, a senior, sank six 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 22 points, while junior Burgess connected on seven treys and tallied 21 to lead the Warriors over rival Piedmont 62-58.

“We rely on the 3-pointer a lot,” Edwards said. “When we get our 3s going we’ve got a good shot at winning the game.”

“It (3-pointers) came up big for us,” added Burgess. “My teammates gave me the ball when I was open, and I was fortunate enough to be in the right spot at the right time and be able to knock it down.”

The Warriors (10-4) finished with 14 3-pointers in the game. Burgess hit four of them in the first half, while Edwards sank three, but perhaps Edwards’ biggest points of the night came when he canned a couple of free throws with 9.8 seconds remaining in the game to stretch a four-point lead back out to six at 62-56.

“Coach (Neal Wester) focuses on finishing games, knocking down free throws when we need to,” Edwards said. “Usually I don’t get put in that position to take the ball down the court a whole lot, but Coach trusts me and we were able to get the job done tonight.”

Even with the Warrior duo’s hot outside shooting, the Bulldogs (4-10) were still able to hang tough. They held a 12-9 advantage at the end of the first quarter and led 24-20 at halftime.

Piedmont took a 44-43 lead into the fourth quarter before the Warriors were able to build a 60-50 advantage on a pair of free throws by Jacob Graves with
1:28 remaining.

Three consecutive buckets by the Bulldogs’ Weston Kirk cut the Warriors’ lead to 60-56 with 11.8 seconds remaining, but Edwards’ two key free throws stretched things back out to six.

Piedmont’s T.J. Fairs drove in for a layup with 2.5 seconds to go for the final points of the game.

“As long as we were going inside offensively and keeping the lead, we were OK, but we got away from that,” Piedmont coach Tommy Lewis said. “We got away from going inside and started trying to match 3s with them. We’re not as strong a 3-point shooting team like them. We hit some, but we had to go inside out first.”

Austin Brazier led the Bulldogs with 16 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and two assists. Taylor Hayes had 12 points, six boards, two assists and a steal. A.J. Fairs added eight points. Derrick Baer and Kirk finished with six points apiece.

“It’s just two good basketball teams,” Wester said. “It’s a big rival game for both of us. It was close all the way. It was a one-point game going into the fourth quarter. Even when we were up 10 with a minute-and-a-half left, it wasn’t over. We were fortunate tonight to be hot (shooting 3-pointers) and come out on the good side. We’re thankful for that.”

Leah Nelson wanted her Cherokee County girls team to set the pace Saturday, but it took the Lady Warriors a little while to get started in their win over Piedmont. (File photo by B.J. Franklin)

Cherokee County 62, Piedmont 58
Zae Wright 1 0-0 2, Jacob Graves 1 2-2 4, Kyle Burgess 7 0-0 21, Colin Edwards 7 2-2 22, Marcus Barrington 1 0-0 3, Jy Lockridge 0 2-2 2, Will Hawkins 2 0-0 4, Quartez Henderson 2 0-2 4, Riley Russell 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 6-8 62.

PIEDMONT (4-10) – A.J. Fairs 3 0-0 8, Cadravian Myers 0 0-3 0, Taylor Hayes 3 4-4 12, Derrick Baer 2 0-0 6, Easton Kirk 1 0-0 2, Carl Myers 0 2-2 2, Austin Brazier 6 4-5 16, Weston Kirk 3 0-2 6, T.J. Fairs 1 0-0 2, Kaedon Jenkins 1 2-2 4. Totals 20 12-18 58.

Cherokee Co. 9 11 23 19 — 62
Piedmont 12 12 20 14 — 58

3-point goals: Cherokee County 14 (Burgess 7, Edwards 6, Barrington); Piedmont 6 (A. Fairs 2, Hayes 2, Baer 2). Fouled out: Russell. Total fouls: Cherokee County 15, Piedmont 13. Officials: Miller, Watson, Holmes.

Cherokee County girls 53, Piedmont 36

Prior to the game, Cherokee County coach Leah Nelson talked about starting strong and setting the pace. That didn’t happen for the Lady Warriors, as they fell behind 10-0, but they settled down toward the end of the first quarter and went on to take the victory.

“They (Piedmont) come out and hit their first three 3s, but I give our girls credit for not getting frustrated or getting frazzled or bent out of shape,” Nelson said. “Every game is a journey. It’s a long game, and I thought they did a good job of turning up the intensity midway through the first quarter.”

The Lady Warriors (9-5) went on a 10-2 run the rest of the quarter and trailed 12-10. Their late surge continued in the second, where they took a 32-16 advantage into halftime.

“We’ve been struggling like that for a couple of games,” Piedmont coach Terrace Ridley said. “We’ll jump out to a lead and they’ll relax a little too much, and (the opponent) pulls away from us.”

Adding to Piedmont’s second-quarter woes was Cherokee County’s press that Nelson said “helps to drive our intensity and drive our offense.”

Kendal Perry led Cherokee County with 14 points and four steals. Crimson Mahannah contributed 12 points, while Jensen Alexander added nine points, 10 rebounds and three

Breanna Brazier and Kaitlyn Ridley both connected on three treys for Piedmont (5-8), which has lost five in a row. Brazier netted 13 points and Ridley finished with nine. Sydney Prater sank a pair of 3-pointers and had eight points.

Prior to the boys’ game, Piedmont recognized two of its latest Calhoun County Hall of Fame members, in Larry Gowens and Robert Miller. Gowens was a two-sport star (football and basketball), graduating in 1955. Miller was an outstanding basketball player at Piedmont, Jacksonville State and Auburn.

Shannon Fagan is sports editor of the Cherokee County Herald.

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