Alexandria faced a double-digit deficit in the first quarter and didn’t take its first lead until overtime. The Valley Cubs also played most of the extra periods from behind before winning 78-77.
“It wasn’t looking good for our guys, but we kept fighting back and fighting back,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to explain. Our guys just didn’t quit, and the Piedmont kids didn’t quit either. Both teams just kept hitting shots.
“We’re just fortunate we came out on top. A few more seconds and it would have been the other way.”
Alexandria guard Alton Davis said assistant coach Jake Welch was in the Valley Cubs’ ears in the first quarter after Piedmont took a 20-8 lead to open the game. Adjustments came quickly for Alexandria, which cut the Piedmont lead to 30-26 at halftime.
“They’re so good at shooting the basketball,” Johnson said. “We had to switch up our defense, we were having trouble manning them because they’re so fast, and our trap helped us get back in the game.”
The Valley Cubs’ battle continued throughout the second half before Davis hit a game-tying free throw in the final seconds of regulation to send the game to overtime.
Past experiences sat in the Valley Cubs’ thoughts when Piedmont got the ball with nine seconds remaining in double overtime and Alexandria up 78-77.
“At Alexandria, over the last two years, we’ve lost some buzzer beaters – Southside, Jacksonville, White Plains,” Alexandria guard Gabe Marchal said. “You name it, we’ve lost to them.”
Piedmont coach Tommy Lewis chose not to call a timeout when the Bulldogs rebounded the second of two missed three throw by Alexandria in the closest seconds of double OT.
“It’s been my experience a lot of times if you call a timeout and call a play, then they can call their defense” Lewis said. “A lot of times if you don’t call a timeout and your kids have the same language then you have an advantage. (Denard Spears) is a senior, and we wanted to put the ball in his hands.”
Spears brought the ball down the court, passed it to Caleb Adams, who hit a 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to one. Adams passed it back to Spears, who was unable to hit a desperation 3-point shot at the buzzer.
“I was guarding (Dreek Thompson), but I knew (Spears) was going to shoot it so I tried to double team him,” Marchal said. “I knew he was going to be the guy to step up and try to win the game for Piedmont. Fortunately, the shot didn’t go down.”
Alexandria was led by Davis’ 18 points. Marchal added 17, Tyrelle Gay scored 14 and C.J. Swink recorded 10. Spears and Adams both scored 20 points for Piedmont and Taylor Hares added 11.
Alexandria (12-5) will play again Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. against Monday’s winner between Jacksonville and Faith Christian.
“I’m pulling for Jacksonville,” Davis said. “I’m ready to continue the rivalry. I want to play them.”
Piedmont (11-10), which drew the first-round matchup against Alexandria because of random draw, has been eliminated from the tournament.
“It’s a shame Piedmont still isn’t playing,” Johnson said. “They’re one of the top four or five teams in this county, and it’s a travesty that this tournament is set up this way, because Piedmont should still be playing.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.