Trust me, don’t ever count Piedmont out of anything
by Bran Strickland
Star sports editor
Jan 23, 2011 | 4527 views |  0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JACKSONVILLE — Maybe Piedmont missed the memo.

But maybe not. In this technological age, does anybody send memos anymore?

A call would have sufficed, though. Surely somebody called them. There’s no excuse seeing how 447 isn’t long distance anymore.

A tweet. An e-mail. A text message even.

“OMG, why u beatn da Dawgz. N Alex, 2.”

If you didn’t know, this is the Calhoun County Tournament where the big schools win and the small schools know their place.

And that place isn’t in the finals.

With slightly more regularity than Halley’s Comet the small schools stand up to their bigger county brethren, playing to role of Henry the Chicken Hawk to the Foghorn Leghorns of the Calhoun County basketball world.

But make no mistake if you didn’t garner as much from the score — Oxford 42, Piedmont 39 — Piedmont don’t scare.

They’re full of Chicken Hawk. And Scrappy Doo, too.

You can see it in the way they walk, talk and dribble. Even in the way they fire up 3-pointers like they’ve all had their conscience surgically removed.

This group has so much swagger Old Spice should name a body spray after them.

But back to that memo. The truth on it came out shortly after they emerged from their locker room under the bleachers of Jacksonville State’s Pete Mathews Coliseum.

They didn’t get the metaphorical memorandum because their coach, Tommy Lewis — Calhoun County’s own hoops Zen master — ran it through the shredder and told his eighth-seeded squad the exact opposite.

“He told us we could beat anybody in the county,” Piedmont’s Jamaal Johnson said.

And they did.

The Bulldogs beat two somebodys, Anniston and Alexandria, and were within one of those treys they live and die by of beating another.

This team wasn’t supposed to do this. All the big school vs. small school urban legend aside, their record was enough to tell them that.

The Bulldogs were 12-6 going into the tournament. And even worse, they were 2-4 in area play.

Sure, it was less than a year ago they traveled to Birmingham’s state tournament. But four of those starting five are gone with only Johnson remaining.

But they didn’t scare then, either. When everybody told them they didn’t stand a chance against Greene County, they stared the eventual state champion right in the — wait, they hopped on a milk crate and stared the eventual state champion right in their 6-foot-6 eyes and never backed down.

Why? Because Lewis told them they could.

The truth is the trust Lewis’ players have for him is a two-way street. It could be explained in an epic novel that’s later made into after-school specials, or it could be put simply: Why not, he’s been right before.

The sky is red, the housing market is fine, and universal health care is just around the corner — they’d believe it all. They’ve got no reason not to.

Lewis is a well-traveled high school hoops coach, and at every stop he’s told all his players they’d be winners. Turns out he’s never lied.

And perhaps on a deeper level the reason it works is because the conviction is communal.

“Every shot they take, I think it’s going in until it doesn’t,” Lewis said.

Lewis told his players something else Saturday night — while they might not have believed it at the time, this wasn’t the worst day of their life.

Actually, 10 or 20 years down the road it might be one of the best.

Yep, Oxford won the tournament. But like many say, they were supposed to every year.

The Yellow Jackets have all the advantages: more students, the best facilities, newest schools — academies, that is — swimming pools, five stars, all that stuff.

And what does Piedmont have? Like the Ohatchee team of the late 80s that wielded a jawbone against the giants, they’ll always have January 22, 2011, and somebody who will always believe in them.

Bran Strickland is the sports editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3570, bstrickland@annistonstar.com or follow him on Twitter @bran_strickland.

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Trust me, don’t ever count Piedmont out of anything by Bran Strickland
Star sports editor

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