The Bearcats held Piedmont off the scoreboard for the final two minutes to defeat the Bulldogs 72-71 and clinch at least a share of the Class 3A, Area 10 regular-season championship.
“Like I told them in the locker room, I don’t think we played particularly well in the third quarter and some of the fourth, but I thought a lot of that had to do with Piedmont,” Weaver coach Daryl Hamby said. “But I was really happy with how our guys listened and did what I asked them to do at the end. It’s tough to defend like that at the end.”
After Piedmont cut the score to 72-71 with 1:56 left in the game, Weaver held the Bulldogs off the scoreboard for the remainder of the contest, while playing a delayed offense to run the clock out. The defensive hold included a big offensive rebound off a missed free throw with 10 seconds remaining.
Weaver (11-2, 4-0 Area 10) even got a big defensive game from star guard Chris English, who is known mostly for his offense.
Piedmont, which trailed by 16 at halftime, began cutting into the Weaver advantage behind Denard Spears, who finished with 25 points.
“I think Denard just sort of took over. He was also hitting some shots early,” Piedmont coach Tommy Lewis said. “Denard got to where toward the end of the game he kept carrying it to the goal.”
English, who was playing on a bad ankle he injured Tuesday, guarded Spears in the closing minutes and helped slow the Piedmont star.
“I told coach to put me on Denard. At first he told me no because of my ankle,” English said. “Then I told him I could stop him, he trusted me and I stopped him.”
English finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, even though he nearly didn’t get to play in this one. He wasn’t cleared to play until Friday morning.
English said Hamby put him through a series of “tests” Friday morning, most involving jumping and shooting, and ultimately gave the guard the decision of whether he played or not. English decided to play.
“Chris really stepped up big,” Hamby said. “With that ankle, he twisted it yesterday and I didn’t even think he was going to play today. He’s a competitor. He just hates to lose.”
Shon’D McKinney scored 16 points and had seven rebounds for Weaver. Timothy Hawkins added 14 points and five boards, and Elliot Moore scored eight. Piedmont got 16 points and seven rebounds from Caleb Adams, and Dreek Thompson had 11 points and five boards.
Piedmont (8-7, 2-2 Area 10) will return to the floor today against Skyline. Weaver will face White Plains, with a win clinching the regular-season area title outright, which would be its first since 2008.
Piedmont girls 61, Weaver 22: Piedmont isn’t to where coach Terrace Ridley would like, but she said Friday night’s win was a good starting point.
After trailing in the opening minutes of the game, the Bulldogs took a commanding 16-2 lead into the second quarter and rode the momentum the rest of the game.
“We finally started executing a little on offense and made our shots when we were wide open,” Ridley said. “That’s something that we were working on every day at practice, especially over the holidays.”
Piedmont was led by Bre Green’s 11 points, with Jakieya Mitchell adding 10 and Breanna Brazier scoring nine. Laura Williams led Weaver with five points, and Rayne Beck and Keara Scott added four each.
While Ridley was happy about the win, she added the Bulldogs have plenty to improve upon, but little time to do so. Piedmont has five games next week, including Class 3A, Area 10 foes Saks and White Plains on Thursday and Friday.
“Seeing what I saw tonight, we still aren’t where we need to be for Saks or White Plains,” Ridley said. “We have a lot of things to correct, but not much time with all the games scheduled for next week.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star