The senior responded with one of the finest games of her career, scoring 29 points and leading Piedmont to a 65-49 sub-regional win Thursday over the Yellow Jackets.
“I’ve told her we’re going to ride her coattails because everybody’s focusing on BreAnna and she’s taken it to heart. She has played lights-out the last two ball games,” Piedmont coach Matt Deerman said. “Offensively and defensively, she’s doing a good job and getting rebounds. She’s got a new spirit for basketball.”
Garner’s rejuvenation couldn’t have come at a bigger point in the season. The Bulldogs’ victory over Glencoe returns them to the Northeast Regional tournament at Jacksonville State after a four-year absence. Piedmont (26-6) plays at Pete Mathews Coliseum on Thursday at 9 a.m. against the winner of tonight’s game between Geraldine and Holly Pond at Holly Pond.
Deerman said the Bulldogs were getting the shots they wanted in the first half but were missing easy scoring opportunities around the basket. At halftime, Piedmont led just 23-20.
“The biggest difference in the first half and the second half was that we started hitting some of those shots, and every time they’d make a run we’d have an answer for it,” Deerman said.
For much of the second half, Garner was the answer. She scored 11 of her points in the third quarter. Over a period of just less than two minutes in the third, from 6:16 to 4:34, Garner drove the baseline for Piedmont’s first points of the second half, netted a 3-point basket, converted a pair of free throws and hit another 3-pointer.
The second trey earned Piedmont a 33-23 advantage and brought a quick timeout call from Yellow Jackets coach John Blackwell.
The run would have finished most teams but senior guard Laura Poovey kept Glencoe in the hunt with nine points, a trey and 6-for-6 shooting at the line, in the third quarter. Poovey led the Yellow Jackets with 27 points. She eased in two 3s and was 9-for-11 at the stripe for the night.
Poovey’s play was no surprise to Deerman, who called her an “outstanding player.”
“We focused everything in practice around her. We did drills specifically for her and we still got beat to the basket and she still got to the line,” Deerman said.
An off-balance shot at the buzzer by Brittany Holloway pushed Piedmont ahead 43-36 after three quarters. A driving basket and a free throw by Holloway on the first possession of the fourth quarter bumped Piedmont’s lead to 46-36 and the Yellow Jackets never cut the lead back to single digits.
The question over the final eight minutes was would the Bulldogs make enough free throws to keep Glencoe at bay. They did, hitting a total of 14 to go with two driving baskets by Garner, one by Thompson and Holloway’s.
Thompson contributed a double-double to the win. She had 20 points, 10 in the fourth quarter, and 10 rebounds. She also made four steals and blocked two shots. Garner added four rebounds, two steals and two blocks to her total. Bre Green was 2-for-3 from outside the arc and 2-for-2 at the line for eight points. Holloway scored seven points.
Hope Gaskin was the only Glencoe player other than Poovey in double figures with 10 points.