E.A. Sports Today

Another comeback

Piedmont rallies from two early double-digit deficits, overtakes Sylvania for a fifth straight trip to the Northeast Regionals 
By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
PIEDMONT – Not that it really wants to keep do things this way, but the Piedmont basketball team continues to live by the notion that it’s not how you start, but had you finish.
Once again the Bulldogs fell behind by double digits early – twice, actually – but put together a strong second half and hit free throws down the stretch to overtake Sylvania 59-56 Tuesday in the Class 3A subregionals.
The Bulldogs (22-5) will play Hanceville (23-7) in their Northeast Regional opener at Jacksonville State Monday at 4:30 p.m. It’s their fifth straight trip to the regionals, first under new coach JoJo Odam.
It was at least the fifth time since the Calhoun County Tournament the Bulldogs fell behind by double digits early and rallied to win.

“I’m getting gray hair fast, I’ll tell you that,” Odam said. “That’s killing me. They jumped on us early and it got bad early, but we did a good job of sticking with it. It does say a lot about them and their character being able to fight back.”
The Bulldogs fell behind 14-0 in the first 2:30 of the game as Sylvania put on a shooting show, with four different players hitting a 3-pointer. They rallied to trail only 16-14 after the first quarter, but the Rams went on another 12-0 run in the second to push their lead to 28-18.
“They all shoot it so well, especially their big guy No. 4 (Jared Higgins),” Odam said. “All five can stroke it from anywhere on the floor. We knew they could shoot it like that, but I don’t know if the kids knew. Once they realized it and settled in we were able to battle.”
Higgins led all scorers with 33 points, but the Bulldogs held him to only two points in the fourth quarter. Grant Atchley added 15 points for the Rams.
Sylvania led 30-22 at the end of a lightning-fast first half – it took all of 30 minutes – and the Bulldogs had not made a 3-pointer.
That all changed in what Odam called “a really good third quarter” when they hit five from behind the arc – four by Carl Myers – and cut their deficit to 46-45 entering the fourth. The 3s accounted for all 12 of Myers’ points.
“Carl’s had some big games for us this year; we know he can shoot it,” Odam said. “He was in a funk early and at halftime Coach (Matt) Glover told him we believe you can make them, you have to believe you can make them. Once he made the first one, that set him off.”
It stayed close throughout the fourth quarter. The difference was Alex Odam going to the foul line and not flinching. The eighth-grader went 8-for-9 from the line in the quarter, 12-for-13 in the game, missing only his final attempt of the game that would have put Piedmont up four.
“He shoots free throws so well and we were doing a good job getting it to him,” Odam said. “Everybody was like ‘Get it to Alex.’ I couldn’t be more proud of him as a coach and a dad. As he was shooting them I didn’t watch I was so nervous – that’s the dad in me – but he knocked them down.”
Odam finished with 30 points, four rebounds and three steals. Delo Foster had eight points, six rebounds and five blocked shots.

Piedmont 59, Sylvania 56
SYLVANIA (18-9) –
Jaxen White 0 0-0 0, Josh Tinker 2 0-0 5, Jared Higgins 13 4-4 33, Nathan King 1 0-0 3, Trevor Butler 0 0-0 0, Austin Traffanstedt 0 0-0 0, Jarrett Hill 0 0-0 0, Grant Atchley 5 2-2 15. Totals 21 6-6 56.
PIEDMONT (22-5) – Carl Myers 4 0-2 12, Kaedon Jenkins 0 0-0 0, Delo Foster 4 0-1 8, Silas Thompson 2 0-0 5, Alex Odam 9 12-13 30, T.J. Fairs 1 2-2 4, Jakari Foster 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 14-18 59.
Sylvania          16       14       16       10       –          56
Piedmont       14       8          23       14       –          59
3-point goals: Sylvania 8 (Tinker, Higgins 3, King, Atchley 3); Piedmont 5 (Myers 4, Thompson). Total fouls: Sylvania 13, Piedmont 12. Officials: Cooper, Hatton, Woods.

Cover photo: Piedmont’s Alex Odam takes his turn cutting down the nets after the Bulldogs’ final home game of the season.

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