The Valley Cubs matched up man-to-man and forced turnovers on defense and converted each opportunity into two, if not three, points on the other end.
They scored the game’s first 15 points and held the Bulldogs without a field goal for more than seven minutes to take a 23-5 lead into the second quarter.
“Most definitely,” said Alexandria coach Jason Johnson when asked if it was the best opening quarter his team had played all season. “We blocked shots and got after it on defense. They were throwing the ball away. I don’t know if it was our defense but our kids gave good effort.”
The script was flipped in the second quarter when the Bulldogs outscored Alexandria 20-15 behind 11 points from 6-foot-7 senior Sloan Garner.
Piedmont, a finalist in last year’s tournament, would trail by just three at the half.
But whenever the Bulldogs would come close to evening the score Alexandria would push them back even further.
“We just came out and played like it was just another game and Alexandria came out and played like it was a County tournament game,” Piedmont coach Tommy Lewis said.
The win was the first for the Class 4A Valley Cubs in three meetings with the Bulldogs, state semifinalists in Class 3A last season. Piedmont downed Alexandria 70-59 on Dec. 5 and 57-55 on Jan. 6.
“We really wanted to come out after they beat us two games and get a win,” Alexandria point guard Jarline Lee said.
Alexandria will face No. 1 Anniston, its Area 10 foe in the semifinals today at 5:30 p.m.
The 5-7 Lee led the Valley Cubs with 17 points, using his speed, quickness and ball-handling ability to drive into the teeth of the Bulldogs’ defense.
“That’s something me and (Alexandria assistant coach) Will Ginn work on every day in practice,” Lee said. “He told me I need to start taking advantage.”
Piedmont’s best chance to steal the game came when it pulled to within two at 52-50 on a pair of free throws from sophomore guard Denard Spears. But Alexandria reeled 10 straight points to shut the door for good.
“In the fourth quarter, we hadn’t really gotten after it on the defensive end,” Johnson said. “So, guys took it upon themselves to get after it. We had a couple of key steals and we blocked out well.”
The Valley Cubs got solid post production from both Blake Jones and Tyler Burr. Jones scored 15 and Burr added 14 as the two battled Garner inside all game.
“Against him, first of all, we’ve got to get the ball down low,” Jones said. “Then we just used the head fake to get him up in the air and get him into foul trouble.”
Jones fouled out with 3:26 to play. Garner was whistled for his fifth with 57.6 seconds after scoring a game-high 28 points.
Piedmont’s Trevor Ford and Chris Strott scored eight points apiece.