Run, press, run, press and the Lady Raiders would be worn out by the final quarter.
Deerman, however, underestimated Pleasant Valley’s new-found endurance.
Piedmont won, 47-44 Saturday night at Jacksonville State’s Pete Mathews Coliseum, but it was a first-round Calhoun County Tournament game that wasn’t decided until the final inbounds of the ball, which came with 0.3 seconds remaining on the clock.
“We pressured them more and ran on them more (than last time),” Deerman said, “and they wouldn’t go away.”
The wear-them-down approach certainly didn’t work in the beginning as Pleasant Valley jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and held a 13-9 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
But among all of Pleasant Valley’s hustle, its advantages started to go away — namely in the form of Taylor Porter. Early in the second quarter she picked up her third foul and went to the bench with more than twice the number of points of any other Lady Raider.
“She’s a key player in what we do — rebounding, scoring and handling the ball,” said Pleasant Valley coach David Bryant. “That limited what we could do offensively.”
Porter was never again as effective as she was in the first quarter. After scoring eight points in the first, she went scoreless in the second and tallied only eight points in the entire second half as she led all scorers with 16.
But as Porter trailed off, another Lady Raider picked up her game. Jerri Johnson connected on three 3-pointers and finished with 12 points to keep her team in the game with her long-range shots at critical times.
But life behind the arc wasn’t always fruitful, and neither was life down low sometimes — one of the biggest things Bryant lamented as the Lady Raiders will get a week off after the early exit.
“We missed a lot of opportunities: missed shots — close-in shots, costly turnovers,” Bryant said. “But a lot of that was attributed to their effort.
“Matt and I are good friends. If I was going to lose to anybody — and I hate losing — I guess I’d rather it be to him.”
Piedmont’s balanced attack set the tone in the second half and held strong as the Bulldogs rolled into the second round, where they’ll take on top seed Anniston.
Five players contributed to the Lady Bulldogs’ 17-point showing in the third quarter as they took a 39-34 lead.
Sarah Garner and Kayla Allen had 11 and 10 points, respectively, as Brea Dixon led the Lady Bulldogs with 14 points.
Dixon’s points were particularly pleasing to Deerman, who noted many of her efforts don’t always show up in the box score.
“She’s just a workhorse,” he said. ”She doesn’t get a whole lot of credit for things, but she hustles and gets on the ground for balls and plays defense.
“You can’t put a value on a player like that. She played over her head tonight.”
Bran Strickland is the sports editor for The Star.