Piedmont was Wednesday night at the Calhoun County Tournament. And it did the right things at exactly the right time.
The No. 8 Bulldogs knocked down nine timely 3-pointers to key their 63-53 upset of top-seeded Anniston at Jacksonville State’s Pete Mathews Coliseum. The loss marks the first time since 2004 the No. 1 seed did not advance to the semifinals.
Piedmont wasted no time finding a timely 3-pointer, floating off Deion Ammons’ fingers 20 seconds into the game. While it only gave Piedmont a 3-0 lead, it seemed to infuse the whole Bulldog team with confidence.
“They hit a lot of 3s when they really, really needed them,” Piedmont coach Tommy Lewis said. “I think it was a big thing that Deion (Ammons) hit that first one.”
Added Ammons: “I just knew coach Lewis was depending on me. He said when I was open to take the shot.”
Senior Jamaal Johnson led five Piedmont starters in double figures with 20 points and was 3-for-4 from 3-point range. Ammons and Noah Willis added two apiece.
Derrick Jackson’s only made trey came with nine seconds left in the third quarter and pushed Piedmont ahead 38-29 after three quarters. Anniston shooting guard Jabrielle Snodgress made his only 3-point basket of the game from well outside the college line to open the final eight minutes, setting the stage for Anniston’s fourth-quarter push.
Piedmont (14-6) got the next four points on an inbounds play to Sloan Garner and two free throws by Jackson but Anniston’s intensified defensive pressure began to take a toll on Piedmont.
Anniston (12-7) got three points the old-fashioned way from Quindarius Johnson then Lafayette Ragland converted another Piedmont turnover into a fast-break basket and Anniston trailed only 42-37 with 6:24 still to play.
Anniston, which trailed 13-2 after the first quarter, had two more chances to inch closer to the lead but couldn’t convert. With 5:55 to play, Willis hit his second trey of the game, extending his team’s lead to 45-37. Lewis immediately called a timeout to give his players a rest.
With 4:10 left, Anniston’s Josiah Atkins was whistled for a foul on Johnson at mid-court while trying to make a steal. A second official then hit Atkins with a technical foul. Johnson made three of four free throws, putting Piedmont up 51-41. Willis scored the next basket from inside the paint with 3:32 to play and Anniston never got closer than nine thereafter.
“This bunch is not real emotional. They just stay on a calm,” Lewis said of his team’s reaction to Anniston’s fourth quarter push.
Piedmont led 24-17 at halftime even though Johnson had scored only three points, on a 3-pointer naturally. Johnson said his teammates “hitting shots took a load off my shoulders.”
Johnson drilled two more 3s and a free throw in the third quarter for seven points, exactly half his team’s quarter total for the quarter.
The need for Anniston’s fourth-quarter fury came from its ice-cold start.
Whether it was the deep shooting background of the big college gym that had Anniston’s shooters missing or the absence of point guard and scoring leader LaSheddrick Edmondson, Anniston scored only once in the first quarter and Piedmont opened a 13-2 lead.
Anniston coach Schuessler Ware said Edmondson had been suspended from school for a school disciplinary infraction.
Snodgress, Anniston’s best long-range shooter for the season at 32 percent, finished with seven points and was 0-for-9 from outside the arc in the first half.
Atkins led the Bulldogs with 27 points.
Piedmont got double-digit scoring from each of its five starters and no points from anyone else. Willis finished with 12 points. Ammons scored 11. Garner and Jackson each had 10 points. Garner claimed 16 rebounds and Johnson 13 as Piedmont won the war on the boards 43-38.
Anniston benefited from 19 offensive rebounds. Ragland had 10 rebounds and six points for Anniston. Snodgress grabbed eight rebounds and Roberts had six. Anniston made 21 steals led by Atkins and Snodgress with five each.