PIEDMONT — No. 1-seeded Piedmont was all business in Saturday’s Class 3A, Area 11 championship game win over No. 3 seed Saks.
The Bulldogs outscored Saks in every quarter on their way to a 62-37 victory. The Wildcats served notice that they are dangerous by upsetting No. 2 Weaver in the semifinal round Thursday and Piedmont players took note.
Both Piedmont (21-5) and Saks (6-16) advance to sub-regional play Tuesday at 7 p.m. Piedmont hosts Sylvania (18-8) while Saks travels to Rainsville to take on Plainview (28-4). The Bears finished as Class 3A’s No. 1 team in the final Alabama Sports Writers Association rankings. Tuesday’s winners play in the Northeast Regional at Jacksonville State.
Piedmont head coach JoJo Odam warned against taking Sylvania lightly.
“They’ve got good guard play. They’ve got a big inside that’ll step out and shoot it. They’re really well coached. It will be a tough game,” Odam said.
Tournament MVP Alex Odam converted a three-point play in the first 15 seconds but the score remained 3-0 until Odam netted a 3-point basket from the top of the circle with 3:37 on the clock. Saks got 3-pointers from Jordan Cosper and Zaejuan Johnson and Piedmont led just 8-6 when reserve Silas Thompson energized the Bulldogs with a pair of treys in the final 90 seconds of the first quarter.
“As soon as it left my hand I felt confident that it was going in so I backed off, confident that it was going in, and it happened to go in,” Thompson said of his first triple. “The second one I grabbed the ball and they didn’t step out on me again, I guess they thought it was luck, so I pulled the trigger and it went in.”
Thompson’s baskets upped Piedmont’s lead to 14-6. A layup at the buzzer by Saks’ Tyler Smith trimmed the Bulldogs’ lead to 14-8 when the quarter ended. The elder Odam called Thompson’s 3-pointers “huge.”
“I think we fed off that more than anything,” the coach said. “He brings a lot of energy.”
The younger Odam scored 10 of his game-best 19 points in the second quarter, helping Piedmont outscore the Wildcats 18-6 in the second.
“Once you get hot and get going, you just know when it’s going in,” he said.
Odam’s two free throws with 3.4 seconds on the clock earned Piedmont a 32-14 halftime advantage.
“We couldn’t throw it in the ocean tonight but that’s been the story of our season,” Saks coach Jonathan Miller said. “When we’ve managed to score 45 to 50 points we’ve been in the ball game. We’ve had too many nights like this.”
Miller said the Wildcats didn’t shoot well — not around the basket, not outside the arc and not at the free throw line.
“A big part of Piedmont that gives us trouble is the big kid (D’Angelo Foster) in the lane. Our game is to get inside, drive the ball and try to get around the rim and he’s an issue for us,” Miller said.
The 6-foot-6 Foster didn’t score, may not have taken a shot, but claimed 12 rebounds, blocked three shots, made two steals and dished out two assists.
“He changes so many shots. I don’t think Delo even realizes how much of the game he affects, just him standing there in the lane,” JoJo Odam said. “He makes such a big difference on the defensive end.”
Thompson ended with 16 points and five rebounds off the bench. Point guard T.J. Fairs had 11 points, six assists and five rebounds. Carl Myers scored seven points and pulled down eight rebounds. He also played stellar defense against Zay Elston of Saks, helping the Bulldogs limit Elston to two points after he scored 30 against Weaver on Thursday.
Smith led Saks in scoring with 10 points. Cosper finished with nine points.
Fairs and Myers of Piedmont, Elston and Smith of Saks, Amardric Elston of Weaver and Colby Gaines of Pleasant Valley joined Odam on the all-tournament team.