E.A. Sports Today

Piedmont pulls away

Bulldogs to play for another area title after overcoming slow start against Weaver; Saks puts away from PV to join them in title game
By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
PIEDMONT — Top-seeded Piedmont didn’t play one of its sharpest games of the year, but the Bulldogs still had plenty to get past fourth-seeded Weaver Thursday night.
The Bulldogs wound up pulling away late for a 76-36 victory in the Class 3A Area 11 semifinals and will play second-seeded Saks for what could be their sixth consecutive area title and 11th in 13 years Saturday night.
Both finalists are guaranteed a spot in next week’s subregional round, where the winner will host Geraldine while loser travels to Plainview.

The Bulldogs were in control the entire game, but just weren’t as crisp as coach JoJo Odam would have liked — particularly after “three good days” of practice. He told them that will have to change.
“We told them from this point on we need to be playing good,” Odam said. “We did some good things (tonight) but it wasn’t a good overall performance.
“We’ve got some stuff we need to clean up. We can’t play that sloppy again and keep advancing. We’ve just got to play better.”
Alex Odam was the Bulldogs’ leading scorer with 21 points, but Jakari Foster was by far their most active player. He scored 12 points, grabbed 12 rebounds — more than Weaver had as a team — and had three steals.
“We felt he was going to have a good one tonight,” JoJo Odam said. “Man, he rebounds it so well. There are times I look up and his head’s above the rim. He just goes and gets it. He kind of started early. His energy means a lot. He’s such a free spirit, just smiling all the whole time. He’s fun to watch.”
“It was just something that popped up today,” Foster said. “I don’t know why. It just clicked in. I just had a lot of energy all week. Scoring 12 points tonight was just coming out of nowhere. I’m not usually a scorer.”
Omarion Foster had six assists and Trey McFarland grabbed eight rebounds.
All 11 players who dressed for Piedmont played and everybody scored, including Cassius Fairs and Dalton Mitchell, who both scored their first varsity points during the Bulldogs’ 16-4 closing flurry.
Piedmont jumped out to a 10-1 lead. Weaver cut it back to 15-10 with the first basket of the second quarter then the Bulldogs held the Bearcats scoreless until 1:15 remained in the half and led 33-14 at the break. 
It was enough, it just wasn’t pretty.

“We were very sloppy early,” Alex Odam said. “The second half we kind of picked it up, but from now on it’s going to be tough games so we have to start off better. We all have to be as sharp as we can be going forward. We’ve got to play a lot better than that.”
Piedmont 76, Weaver 36
WEAVER (6-23) –
Brendyn Knight 2 1-3 5, Kohl Perry 0 0-0 0, Buck McGregor 0 0-0 0, Jackson Williams 1 0-0 2, Kyle Knight 5 1-2 12, Gave Collison 0 0-0 0, Austin Bryant 0 0-0 0, Armane Burton 4 3-4 11, Taylor Thompson 0 0-0 0, Tristan Brown 1 3-4 6, Joey Bolan 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 8-13 36.
PIEDMONT (22-4) – Alex Odam 8 2-2 21, Omarion Foster 3 2-2 8, Cassius Fairs 2 0-1 4, Luke Bussey 4 0-0 9, Trey McFarland 2 1-1 5, Dalton Mitchell 1 0-0 3, Silas Thompson 2 0-0 4, Jack Hayes 1 1-2 3, Coleman Reid 1 0-0 2, Malachi Jackson 2 0-0 5, Jakari Foster 4 3-3 12. Totals 30 9-11 76.
Weaver                  8    6   12  10  –  36
Piedmont              15 18  16  27  –  76
3-point goals: Weaver 2 (K. Knight, Brown); Piedmont 7 (Odam 3, Bussey, Mitchell, Jackson, J. Foster). Fouled out: Thompson. Total fouls: Weaver 16, Piedmont 15. Officials: Horn, McElreeth, Stringer.

Saks flips the script

PIEDMONT — Jonathan Miller has seen this movie before and he was looking for a different ending.
Saks’ games with Pleasant Valley go something like this. The Wildcats would pull ahead, let the Raiders back into the game, pull ahead again and then bring them back again. It’s the high school basketball version of Groundhog Day and he wanted the merry-go-round to stop.
The Wildcats got off the ride in the third quarter Thursday, seizing control of the game with some tight defense, a big third quarter and eventually closing it out for another win over the Raiders 82-71 to reach the Class 3A Area 11 tournament finals. They will play top-seeded host Piedmont Saturday at 6 p.m.
There were so many instances of the Wildcats casting their lead and PV reeling it back in. They jumped out early 8-3, but PV had it tied with 3:58 left in the quarter. The Wildcats pushed the lead back up to 11, but it was a two-point game about a minute into the second quarter. The Wildcats ran it back up to seven, but the Raiderrs brought it to twi with 1:28 left in the half.
It stayed tight early in the third quarter when Miller decided he had seen enough and a time out early in the second half gave him a chance to say so.
“This game was so similar to our last one (with PV),” Miller said. “The big thing was if we get a lead this third quarter lets step on their throat. We had to have that killer instinct to go on and stretch the lead out. We were able to do that in the third quarter and I thought that was the difference in the game.”
The Wildcats had a five-point lead at the time and from there they went on a 10-2 run that gave them a 13-point lead with four minutes left in the quarter. It was such a pivotal stretch of the game because they went from leading 42-38 at halftime to 66-49 entering the fourth quarter.
“The first half I didn’t think we played that well so the second half we had to come out and turn up the heat,” Zay Elston said. 
Elston’s defense sparked Saks’ third-quarter surge. He had several steals that he and his teammates successfully converted into points.
“I like playing defense,” Elston said.
He wasn’t too bad on the offensive end, either, scoring 16 points. Tyler Smith led the Wildcats with 19 points and nine rebounds.
“I thought they both left everything out there on the floor, which is what you’ve got to do this time of year,” Miller said. “They were just alert defensively. This wasn’t some game in middle of January where you’re just going through the motions. They were alert, they were active.”
“It’s my senior year so you have to leave it all on the court,” Smith said.
The Raiders, who were looking to make the sub-region round for the first time since 2005 with a rare win over the Wildcats, made one last mini-run to open the fourth quarter, getting it back to 11, but the Wildcats had it back out to 15 a few moments later.
Pleasant Valley’s Josh Ballew led all scorers with 24 points. Damon Parr had 10 points and 15 rebounds. Justin Willingham had seven rebounds and Brody Phillips had six.
Saks 82, Pleasant Valley 71 
Josh Ballew 9 4-5 24, Garrett Cranmer 4 3-3 12, Jake Malsy 1 2-5 4, Justin Willingham 3 1-5 7, Damon Parr 5 0-2 10, Coleman Haynes 1 2-4 4, Brayden Wright 1 0-0 3, Brody Phillips 3 0-0 7, Wyatt Ingram 0 0-0 0, Trent Findley 0 0-0 0, Ollie Young 0 0-0 0. Totals 27 12-24 71.
SAKS – Benji Wilson 0 0-0 0, Zaejuan Johnson 4 3-4 11, Will Mixson 3 0-3 6, Leonta Jones 1 0-1 2, Kyle Goedde 5 0-3 10, Myles McLaughlin 0 0-0 0, Conor Martin 3 0-1 8, Patrick Williams 3 0-0 6, Jordan Cosper 1 2-2 4, Zay Elston 6 4-8 16, Tyler Smith 7 4-8 19. Totals 33 13-30 82.
Pleasant Valley   14  24 11  22  –  71
Saks                       24  18 24  16  –  82
3-point goals: Pleasant Valley 5 (Ballew 2, Cranmer, Wright, Phillips); Saks 3 (Martin 2, Smith). Fouled out: Cranmer, Malsy. Total fouls; Pleasant Valley 22, Saks 26. Officials: Tillery, McElreeth, Stringer.

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