Piedmont (25-6) opened like a team intent on taking care of business quickly, controlling the opening tip and scoring on a 3-point basket by senior point guard Brittany Holloway. On the made basket, the Bulldogs immediately went to their full court press and Sarah Garner got the first steal of the night. BreAnna Thompson grabbed an offensive rebound and scored. White Plains turned the ball over and Caitlyn Coogler netted a trey. After another steal, Bre Green hit Piedmont’s third 3-pointer.
With his team trailing 11-0, Wildcats coach Michael Merriman called a timeout with 6:18 left in the first quarter. Two more turnovers followed the timeout. Amber Greenwood’s put-back got White Plains on the scoreboard with 5:16 to in the first but Piedmont followed with a 10-0 run. When the initial quarter ended, the Bulldogs led 23-4 and there was little doubt about the eventual outcome.
“We started off so hot. Caitlyn hit a 3. Brittany hit a 3. I think Bre hit one. That was the difference in the game,” Piedmont coach Matt Deerman said.
After losing to Piedmont by 26 points and 31 points during the regular season, Merriman said the Wildcats tried to adjust against the Bulldogs’ zone press by using post Mikayla Owen to handle the ball initially then pass back to her farther down the court. Those passes seldom materialized.
“Sarah does such a good job up front with her length. She knows how to use her length. Then he’s got two quick guards on the wings. That makes it hard to dribble past them,” Merriman said when asked what made Piedmont’s pressure so effective. “It’s hard to hit the middle and it’s hard to reverse it, especially when we’ve got some shorter guards up there.”
“That’s why Sarah is on the front of that thing. Even nights when she doesn’t have good offensive nights or she doesn’t get rebounds, she frustrates people and makes them make turnovers, even if she’s not getting credit for them,” Deerman said. “(White Plains) did a good job of mixing their press break up. Ours did a good job of reading and finding people instead of just standing at a spot and staring at the ball. They did a really good job of finding the people who were in their zone, making adjustments and getting steals out of it.”
White Plains (17-14) cut Piedmont’s lead to 30-17 at halftime as Taylor Snellgrove scored five points in the first two minutes of the second quarter, Sophie Taylor hit a trey midway through and Owen got two baskets from the paint in the final 45 seconds. Piedmont responded with the first 10 points of the third, holding the Wildcats scoreless for more than four minutes.
Garner paced Piedmont on offense with 14 points. Thompson and Green each scored 12 points. Holloway finished with eight points and Coogler scored seven. Green and Garner each was 5-for-6 at the free throw line.
Owen led White Plains in scoring with 11 points. Snellgrove and Greenwood each tallied eight points.
Thompson won the coaches’ vote as tournament MVP. Coogler, Garner, Green and Holloway were also all-tournament selections for Piedmont. Owen, Snellgrove and Taylor represented White Plains. Taylor West and Justice Whatley of Saks were all-tournament choices as were Jordan Barnes and Kayla Barnes of Weaver.
Piedmont and White Plains both advance to Thursday’s sub-regional round. The Bulldogs host the loser of Monday’s game between Ashville and Glencoe at Glencoe. White Plains must travel again Thursday to play the Ashville versus Glencoe winner. Merriman was confident his players would be ready to go Thursday.
“We’ve kind of had our backs against the wall all year but our girls just keep fighting,” he said. “They’ll come back fighting. They’re really resilient.”