JACKSONVILLE — Who knew making free throws could be a team effort?
Such has been the case for Piedmont’s Cardavion Myers, and help from his teammates helped him pull out of his free-throw funk big time at Jacksonville on Thursday.
Myers hit 13 of 15 free throws en route to a career-high 21 points, and the Bulldogs held off the Golden Eagles 75-70 after building as much as a 20-point lead in the second quarter.
Victory in the boys’ game gave Piedmont a split of the doubleheader. Jacksonville’s girls erased a 10-point deficit in the final two minutes and won 57-55 on clutch plays from Kyra Williams and Aniyah Robinson down the stretch.
Piedmont’s boys improved to 6-10 by winning their second consecutive game to follow a seven-game losing streak. By holding off a game Jacksonville team (2-16), the Bulldogs continued to break the mold.
“The thing we did at the end is, we didn’t sub a lot in the fourth,” Piedmont coach Tommy Lewis said. “We were trying to get that group of starters that had been ahead in so many fourth quarters in losses. We’ve been ahead in about seven fourth quarters and didn’t win the game.”
Not Thursday. Piedmont entered the fourth quarter with a 50-45 lead, saw it dwindle to three points twice and four points three times but held on. The Bulldogs were 12-for-14 at the free-throw line in the final quarter to finish 21-for-27 for the game.
Myers was 6-for-6 on free throws in the fourth quarter to finish off his big night there, and it wasn’t by accident. Teammates have been working with him on mindset and technique.
“I’ve been struggling all year on free throws, and I had some of my teammates talk to me about, follow my shot and just have confidence when I go to the free-throw line,” he said. “Easton Kirk, he told me to take three dribbles and shoot the ball, and I did it tonight.”
Piedmont also got 15 points from Taylor Hayes, 12 from Kirk and 10 from Austin Brazier and needed every point.
Led by Rivan Hill’s 22 points, 18 from big man Alex Davis and 14 from DeAndre McCain, Jacksonville stormed back from a 30-10 hole early in the second quarter.
The Golden Eagles used their edge in quickness and size and got a big assist from their bench, their subs outscoring Piedmont’s 25-12. They also had a 17-8 edge on second-chance points.
Jacksonville trailed 38-27 at halftime and had the deficit down to 50-47 on Hill’s pullup jumper to open the third quarter.
McCain answered two Myers free throws with two of his own to make it 52-49, but that’s as close as Jacksonville got.
“Against a good team like that, you can’t get down 20 points like that and expect to win, but we were able to battle back with Rivan’s play, and Alex Davis played really well in the post,” Jacksonville coach Cordell Hunt said. “It was just too little too late.”
Piedmont will play an area game against Pleasant Valley today before opening Calhoun County tournament play against Wellborn on Saturday. Jacksonville has an area showdown with White Plains today before opening county tourney play against Jacksonville Christian on Saturday.
Jacksonville girls 57, Piedmont 55: The Golden Eagles (11-6) rallied from a 53-43 hole in the final two minutes, tying the game at 53-53 on Robinson’s old-fashioned three-point play with 28.7 seconds left and taking the lead on Williams’ steal and layup at 21.1.
Williams also hit two free throws at 9.4 seconds to put Jacksonville up 57-53.
Robinson had eight points in the rally, including two three-point plays.
Piedmont (6-9) went without a basket during Jacksonville’s rally, scoring on the final points of the game on Rebecca Smart’s bucket. The Bulldogs also committed three turnovers during Jacksonville’s run.
“We finally locked up defensively,” Jacksonville coach Tres Buzan said. “We’d been trying to do it all game, and they just kept getting through us.
“I don’t know what happened at the end, but they settled in and played good ‘D’.”
Piedmont’s best stretch came on a 16-2 run after Jacksonville opened up an 18-9 lead in the first quarter. The Bulldogs got their first lead on Breanna Brazier’s 3-pointer to make it 23-20 in the second quarter and led 29-26 at halftime.
Piedmont slowly built a lead and went up double digits on Smart’s putback with two minutes to play.
“We’ve gotten into the habit of getting a jump on a team and getting a run on a team and settling down,” Piedmont coach Terrace Ridley said. “Backing off and sitting on the ball too much, and that’s been our biggest problem all season long.”
Williams led Jacksonville with 19 points. Robinson and Aniya Jefferson scored 10 apiece.
Sydney Prater led Piedmont with 16 points. Lulu Jackson added 11, and Brazier and Kaitlyn Ridley added 10 apiece.