Piedmont’s Odam leads comeback charge over Cherokee County

Piedmont’s Alex Odam shoots a jumper between Cherokee County defenders Jaden Wilson, left, and Cade Hopper, right, during their basketball game on Thursday night. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

PIEDMONT – On some nights, Piedmont senior point guard Alex Odam’s role is to dish the ball off to his teammates when they’re shooting well. Other nights, he has to pour in the points himself.

Thursday at home against rival Cherokee County was one of the latter nights.

The Jacksonville State signee delivered a game-high 44 points, including a 10-of-13 performance from the free-throw line, in leading the Bulldogs to a 70-66 comeback win over the Warriors.

“It was just one of those nights I felt I was going to have to score a pretty good amount to win. I knew we needed it,” Odam said. “Some nights I don’t have to.

“It says a lot about our team. We never really quit. Last night (a 72-61 loss to Fort Payne), we were kind of put in the same situation. We got down by a little bit, but we never really could get over that hump. It was kind of rejuvenating to pull this one out.”

The Class 3A, No. 6 Bulldogs (20-5) once trailed Cherokee County (12-12) by 13 points in the third quarter, but Odam almost erased that deficit by himself. He scored all 16 of Piedmont’s points in the third, trimming the Warrior lead to 60-53 heading into the final quarter.

The Warriors managed to extend their lead back out to seven at 66-59 with 5:41 remaining in the game on a basket by Landon Caldwell, but the Bulldogs proved to have one last scoring surge in them.

They tied the game at 66 on Cole Wilson’s 3-pointer with 2:50 to go, then took the lead for good at 68-66 on an Odam basket with 1:27 remaining.

“Basketball is a game of runs,” Piedmont coach and Alex Odam’s father JoJo Odam said. “They’re going to go on a run. We’re going to go on a run. When they go on one, you’ve just got to match theirs. They went on one there to start the second half, but we did a good job of staying under control and not panicking.”

It was Wilson’s 3-pointer that sparked the Bulldogs on to victory.

“That was a big three,” Coach Odam said. “He’s knocked down a lot of big threes for us this year. He’s got ice in his veins. Like the other night (at White Plains), the game was on the line and he buries it. He just shoots it so well. Everybody’s got confidence in him.”

Piedmont held a 21-19 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Warriors surged out to a 43-37 halftime advantage behind three 3-pointers by Cherokee County senior guard Jack Amos in the second quarter. He also had three more treys to open the game and finished with seven in the game.

Amos led the Warriors with 26 points and also eclipsed the 1,000-point barrier along the way.

“I want to thank my coach and my teammates. If wasn’t for them this wouldn’t be possible,” Amos said of his milestone. “It didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but I’m still happy. Not a lot of people can say they scored 1,000 points in basketball. I’m happy about it.”

“It’s unbelievable how hard he fights and how hard he plays,” Cherokee County coach Caleb Hays said of Amos. “Every time he goes on the court it’s another night of electricity for him. Any time he’s got the ball in his hands and they give him any room, I know good things are going to happen. That’s just a testament to his career and what he’s done. He started playing as a sophomore and he was more of a role player. He wasn’t our main scorer at that time, but he last two years he’s really put it on as that guy. He’s probably averaging 20 a game the past two years. Man, I love coaching that kid.”

Alex Odam also commended the competitive nature Amos brings.

“He’s a great player,” he said. “I like the chip on his shoulder, him being a smaller guy. I like the way he plays. I’ve always respected him.”

“Him and Alex going at it, it’s a fun thing to watch,” Coach Odam said. “Those are two of the better players around here in my opinion. I love to watch Jack play. He’s got a little fire in him. I don’t like coaching against him but I like watching him play. He’s a pleasure to watch.”

Cherokee County had its chances down the stretch to tie or regain the lead, with the last coming with 10.9 seconds to go.

From the scorers’ table at mid-court, Cade Hopper in-bounded the ball to Malachi Horton, who tossed a pass to Jaden Wilson underneath the basket. The pass sailed off Jaden Wilson’s hand, which was then stolen by Cole Wilson, who was fouled with 3.6 seconds remaining.

Cole Wilson then in-bounded the ball to Odam, who was fouled and sent to the free-throw line with 0.2 seconds left on the clock. Odam made both shots for the final.

Cole Wilson sank three 3-pointers and scored 11 points for the Bulldogs. Ish Bethel finished with five points.

Caldwell contributed 12 points for the Warriors. Jaden Wilson netted 10 and Jacob Cornejo collected nine.

“They had a better fourth quarter than us,” Hays said. “We played really well the whole game, even in the fourth. I didn’t think we played terrible. It’s just Alex hit a lot of shots. I know he didn’t miss many. We gave up some opportunities and made some bad decisions that kind of cost us a little bit, but all the credit to them. Alex played great. I don’t know how people stop him.

“We’ve got to move on from that. We can’t let this one affect what we want to do in the postseason. We’ve got a little time to prepare for White Plains (in the Class 4A, Area 10 Tournament at Jacksonville on Feb. 9).”

Cherokee County senior guard Jack Amos is presented a game ball from Warrior boys basketball coach Caleb Hays for scoring his 1,000th career point at Piedmont on Thursday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
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