Piedmont’s boys won in Class 3A, beating Leeds on Saturday to clinch a berth in this week’s state semifinals in Birmingham.
The Bulldogs did it with 14 players from Piedmont’s state-championship football team.
Anniston’s girls came three points short of a return trip to Birmingham, and Anniston’s top-ranked boys are headed back to defend their 2009 state title in 4A.
But Anniston had to survive an instant classic Saturday, beating savvy and fearless Jacksonville 52-50.
This all comes in a 12-month span that saw Piedmont win the county’s first state football title in 12 years.
Anniston boys won a state basketball title.
Wellborn won a state wrestling title eight days ago, a year after finishing second to Piedmont.
And there were a myriad of state runners-up — Anniston’s girls’ basketball team, Jacksonville’s volleyball and boys’ soccer teams and Oxford’s baseball team.
One can go from season to season to season, and trophies with the state of Alabama mounted on them just keep coming back to our little nook these days.
Some trophies come in blue, and some come in red, but they keep coming.
Our teams keep finding their way to the biggest stage for their sport, and basketball has done its part for some time.
Anniston’s boys will make their third Birmingham trip in eight years, and the girls have been twice.
Saks’ boys went in 2005 and 2006, Jacksonville in 2004 and now Piedmont.
But nothing spoke to the quality of hoops and the surge in prep sports in Calhoun County more than the Northeast Regional that just played out.
The 4A boys’ bracket alone nearly had three teams from the county. County tourney winner Saks lost a heartbreaker to Oneonta in a sub-regional.
We still had Anniston and Jacksonville, and they played a final to remember.
Anniston punched, and Jacksonville counterpunched.
When Anniston seemingly took off with a 40-31 lead after three quarters, Jacksonville rallied for a thrilling finish.
Anniston’s long athletes blocked shots, but so did Jacksonville’s Tristan Garmon.
Anniston’s presses and traps forced turnovers, but quick and crafty Jacksonville point Ethan Maske attacked it as few have during Anniston’s two-year run of regional supremacy.
It came down to Quintarius Hutchison sinking free throws and blocking Jacksonville’s would-be trying shot, but only after the Golden Eagles did what few thought it could against the Bulldogs.
Who foresaw Anniston going nearly eight minutes without a field goal, a span starting in the second quarter and extending to the third?
Who foresaw Jacksonville holding Anniston to 28 percent shooting?
Who wasn’t impressed with how the 6-foot-6 Garmon used dribble- and head-fakes to score 20 points?
Who didn’t ooh and ahh when Maske dribbled through the heart of Anniston’s press and beat two defenders with an up-and-under move?
Who watched the Anniston-Jacksonville game and didn’t think about a dream team? Add Garmon and Maske to Anniston’s top five, and buy plenty of popcorn.
But that would exclude Piedmont stars such as Christian Cantrell, Jamaal Johnson and Matt Craig — who played his first three seasons at Weaver.
And who could leave out Saks’ Andre Richardson, Stefan Hunter and R.J. Sturkie?
Or Alexandria’s Hunter Kelley?
It’s been a quality season in Calhoun County basketball, tucked nicely into a quality year-plus for prep sports in the county.
And the nice thing?
It goes on this week for Anniston and Piedmont.