MONTICELLO, Ga. — Just as they dominated region foes on the court in the regular season, the Piedmont Academy Lady Cougars cruised through the region tournament last week.
The Lady Cougars (20-3) defeated LaGrange Academy, 49-28, on Saturday afternoon for the GISA Region 1-AA championship. While the Piedmont girls have bigger goals in front of them, head coach Michael Wilson said it is always an accomplishment to win the region.
“It is a great feeling to win back-to-back region championships,” Wilson said. “It never gets old winning trophies. Winning consecutive region championships hasn’t been done by the girls at Piedmont in 30 years or so and that is another one of those items we can put a check mark next to. This group of girls just keep adding to their legacy. It’s something each player on the team should take pride in being a part of.”
Jayden Young led the Lady Cougars with 17 points in the championship game while Marissa Holder scored 10 and Haley Ann Frank scored eight. Maddie Waddleton finished with seven points.
“When I took the girls' job there were many who told me that we just aren’t a basketball school and that we can’t compete with the good teams for whatever reason,” Wilson said. “That was just foolish to me. I believed in the girls I coached that first year and they passed on traits needed for teams to be successful and each group of graduating seniors who followed did the same and as a coach it is really something special to see the progression of this program.”
Making the coach proud was the fact several of his former players were at the championship game. Others sent text messages wishing the team good luck and then congratulations for winning.
“Piedmont is an awesome place and I love to see my former players come back and support this year’s team,” Wilson said. “Better than winning the championship was seeing former players and current players taking pictures together enjoying the moment together as a family.”
In the championship game, Wilson said it was not as easy as the final score might make one believe.
“We struggled making baskets in the first half against LaGrange, but it was more a result of sometimes the attempts just don’t fall instead of something they were doing,” he said. “We had looks and just didn’t have our feet ready or were rushing them. I had a good talk with them at half and focused on reminding them we practice the attempts we are getting every day in practice and to just make sure they are ready to shoot when the ball gets to them.”
The third quarter saw the team score 18 points in the opening four minutes of the second half. After that, things went easier for the team.
“Our top six played well in both games,” Wilson said. “We made very few mental mistakes with the basketball and each one of those girls are invaluable to the team but just as important we got really good minutes from our bench. Haiden Crews, Teagan Satterfield, Bailey Mobley, Abby Arnold, Dakota Floyd and Mallory Kelly all came on and were productive in one way or the other.
“Most importantly, none of them committed silly turnovers when pressured while they were in the game. Basketball is a situational game. Every possession and minute on the court is extremely important, especially this time of year and our bench is doing exactly what we as a team needs in order to keep on winning games.”
In the semifinals last Thursday against Oak Mountain, the Lady Cougars were led by Holder with 12 points in the 55-20 win.
Frank added 11 points and Sydney Stroud scored nine. Teagan Satterfield added seven points while Hannah Tyler and Mallory Kelly both scored five.
Young, Waddleton and Dakota Floyd each scored two points in the semifinal contest.
Oddly, the Lady Cougars dropped from second in GISA Class AA to third. While the team still receives an opening-round bye, the move from second to third is a curious one.
Westwood is now ranked second after winning the 3-AA tournament. Brentwood is the number one team followed by Westwood, Piedmont and Briarwood. The Lady Cougars will play Friday at 3 p.m. in Macon in the state quarterfinals against the winner of Augusta Prep and Crisp Academy.
The GISA is using a ranking system this school year in conjunction with the MaxPreps website. The exact criteria are not known in terms of how the rankings are compiled.
“It doesn’t matter how good a team is,” Wilson said. “It’s always hard to win the final game and a little luck is always needed but those are things we can’t control. We’ve worked really hard to make sure we handle the things we can control and if we did that, we felt we could put ourselves in the discussion of teams that can win the state championship this year and we’ve done that.
“The girls believe in their ability and are playing well together. That’s all a coach can ask. I believe we are as good as any team in the tournament and I am excited to have the opportunity to see how far we can make it.”
Both Piedmont teams are trying to reach the Final Four for the first time in school history.