In the 2009-20010 and 2010-2011 seasons, the Bulldogs nearly matched that success on the hardwood with back-to-back trips to the Final 48 state tournament.
But with the departure of a senior class that included all-state forward Jamaal Johnson, now playing football at Jacksonville State, and starting point guard Mookie Jackson, expectations were, at least from the outside, a bit lower.
But the Bulldogs banned together to finish 20-12, win a fifth-straight area title and advance to the Northeast Regional tourney where they lost by a point to eventual state finalist Madison Academy.
For those efforts, Piedmont coach Tommy Lewis is The Star’s 2012 Class 3A Calhoun County Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.
“Coaches often talk about life lessons in sport,” Lewis said. “I think they saw some of that this year — a good start, a very low middle, coming back to accomplish goals that looked out of reach — good things when you look back on them, but very hard as you experience them.”
While Piedmont may have lost a lot, the cupboard wasn’t completely empty.
The Bulldogs rode the play of 3A Player of the Year Sloan Garner. The 6-foot-7, 185-pounder averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds a game. Senior guard Trevor Ford, also named to the first team, was good for 13 points a game and was a deadly threat from beyond 3-point range.
They traversed a rocky road on their way to the regional tournament, winning their first four games only to drop their next five before straightening things out.
They weathered an area that included solid squads such as Weaver, Saks and White Plains led by first-team selections Chris English, Xavier Morgan and Jaylen Hill. All were first-team selections along with Wellborn’s Dalton Screws.
The combination of teams made for one of the more competitive areas in all of Class 3A.
“We always aim at 20 wins and an area championship,” Lewis said. “To be honest, I never was sure about anything with this group, but they did seem to gel at a perfect time to reach both of those goals at the last possible minute.
“I think a couple of the area wins toward the end of the season gave us a view of what was possible.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. Reach him at 256-235-3575. On Twitter: birds_word.