Piedmont’s game with Alexandria was its seventh in nine days. Coach Terrace Ridley said she expected her players would be tired and not interested in having her open the gym for the usual free play opportunity Sunday afternoon. She was wrong.
“The first thing they asked me after the (Alexandria) ball game was, ‘Coach Ridley, we’ve got free play tomorrow, don’t we?’ I said, ‘Are y’all going to come over?’ and they said, ’Yes, ma’am.’ Even in free play, they were working on things they needed to work on. They weren’t just out there goofing off.”
That attitude carried over into Monday’s practice.
“We got in practice (Monday) and had one of the best practices we’ve had all season,” Ridley said Tuesday. “Yesterday, they got after it. They talked to each other more yesterday. The attitude was so much different than it’s been all season long.”
Piedmont (7-13) trailed throughout the Alexandria contest. The Valley Cubs led 14-11 at halftime. A 3-point basket by Breanna Brazier opened the second half scoring and made it 14-14 but just over three minutes later Alexandria led by nine at 25-16. A steal and a layup by Riesha Thompson just before the third quarter horn cut the Cubs’ lead to 28-21. Thompson started the fourth quarter with another layup off an Alexandria turnover but the Cubs scored the next four points and led 32-23 with 6:29 to play.
The Bulldogs’ really began with a basket by Brazier. Green made a free throw then a long 3-pointer to cut the lead to 32-29. Alexandria scored but Brazier answered with a trey, was fouled and completed the four-point play. Trailing just 34-33, Piedmont had three opportunities to take the lead but couldn’t convert. The Cubs got two free throws with 2:52 to play. The Bulldogs missed three 3-point tries then Alexandria made a basket with two minutes left and led 38-33.
Again, Piedmont rallied. Green had a put-back basket, Keshauna Jones scored from the paint and Green’s free throw with 57 seconds on the clock made it 38-38. Alexandria managed a free throw and a 39-38 lead 15 seconds later. The Bulldogs missed on a 3-point try and the ball went out of bounds. Alexandria was unable to inbound the ball in the require five seconds and Piedmont took advantage of the turnover as Green connected on a 3-point shot with 17 second left, giving Piedmont its first lead of the game at 41-39. Joy turned to disbelief in the Piedmont camp when Alexandria scored with just four seconds left to tie the game and added a go-ahead free throw.
After a timeout at three-quarters court, the Bulldogs got off a long 3-point attempt that was short but Green grabbed the ball and put it up and in off the backboard as time expired.
Pressure defense generated 22 steals for Piedmont, fueling the Bulldogs’ comeback.
“I knew that my girls were real good at putting pressure,” Ridley said immediately after the game. “Even though we had a couple in foul trouble I knew they could be smart. Being in the press is what gets them really motivated. They love to press.”
Asked if there was a lesson for her and her teammates in the win, Green said, “If we keep pushing, … we can do anything if we put our minds to it.”
Thompson led in scoring with 14 points and recorded six steals and two assists. Green scored all 12 of her points in the fourth quarter. She had five steals. Brazier had nine points, three rebounds and two assists. Jones scored four points and had six boards. Carlie Flowers had two points, nine rebounds and four steals. Tiffany Prater finished with two points and four rebounds.
On January 14, Piedmont hosted Wellborn and won easily 55-39. The Bulldogs led 24-7 after one quarter and 43-15 at halftime. Ridley had already been substituting liberally in the first half and reserves played most of the second half. Jones was Piedmont’s only double-figure scorer with 10 points. Flowers, Thompson and Brazier scored six points apiece. Green and Jakieya Mitchell tallied five points each. Jaylen Major scored four points, Tiffany Prater three and Paige Gowens one. Ridley also played four players from the junior high roster against Wellborn and three scored. Kaitlyn Ridley had four points, Tylin Wilson three and LuLu Jackson two.
The Bulldogs defeated Class 3A, Area 10 foe Saks 58-41 on Thursday of last week. A month earlier, Saks had beaten Piedmont 51-36 at Saks but the Bulldogs were the more aggressive team on their home court and lead 16-3 after one quarter.
Green had 18 points against the Wildcats, including three treys and a 7-for-10 night at the free throw line. She also had four steals and three rebounds. Flowers had 13 points and six rebounds. Brazier scored 10 points and had two assists. Thompson contributed everywhere with eight points, eight steals, three assists and three rebounds. Jones had six points, five steals and four rebounds. Major scored three points and grabbed six boards.
Piedmont’s only recent loss came at home Friday against Area 10 opponent White Plains by a 33-29 count. The Bulldogs led 24-23 after three quarters when Jones banked home a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer. Thompson hit another trey, from the left wing, for a 27-23 lead on the opening possession of the fourth quarter but the Bulldogs score just one more basket the rest of the way.
Thompson had 11 points, all in the second half, including three treys. She made three steals and had two assists. Green scored seven points and made two steals. Prater scored four points and nabbed three rebounds. Jones and Brazier each scored two points. Jones added nine rebounds and Brazier made two steals. Major had one point and three rebounds. Flowers recorded six rebounds.