By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director
JACKSONVILLE – There were times where Piedmont senior point guard Alex Odam and boys basketball coach/father JoJo Odam would argue after basketball games. A few of those arguments almost come to blows.
In the end, the duo made things work. Alex became one of the state’s most prolific scorers with over 3,000 career points. The Bulldogs reached the Northeast Regional tournament every year of his varsity career, including Thursday’s regional final against third-ranked Plainview.
The younger Odam’s high school career and the sixth-ranked Bulldogs’ season ended with a 67-48 loss.
“I had the best seat to a great career,” an emotional JoJo Odam said in the post-game press conference. “I enjoyed watching him and coaching him. He probably didn’t enjoy it as much as I did. We had our ups and downs. We fought. We went home mad at each other, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
The feeling was mutual for Alex.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything either,” he said. “It was hard, but we made it work. We had fun with it. I’m gonna miss it.”
Alex Odam’s teammates and competitors will miss him too.
“There’s only one Alex Odam. He’s his own player and he’s really good,” Piedmont freshman guard Rollie Pinto said. “You learn so much from him. I’ve learned a heck of a lot of stuff. It’s great playing with a player like him. He knows how to do everything perfect. He’s so smooth in everything he does. I love playing with him. I’m going to miss him next year.”
“He’s a wonderful player to play with. I learned so much from him,” Piedmont sophomore guard Ishmael Bethel said. “There were times I thought I knew everything, but he’d say something to me and I’d be like ‘You’re right.’ I can’t argue with him. He’s so smart. He sees things that nobody else sees. It’s just great to play with him.”
The Jacksonville State signee has also earned the respect of Plainview head coach Robi Coker.
“He’s a very skilled offensive basketball player,” Coker said. “Obviously, I’m a Gamecock so we wish him nothing but the best in the future. We always felt like he would be down here (in the regionals). He obviously had a phenomenal career. Every night everybody was focused on him. He’s a good competitor and we wish him well in the future.”
For a while, Piedmont (25-6) proved up for the challenge against the up-tempo Bears (29-6). The two teams were tied at 21 at the end of the first quarter. Plainview outscored Piedmont 9-2 in the second to take a 30-23 advantage into the locker room.
The Bulldogs managed to make it a five-point game at 33-28 following a Pinto 3-pointer with 6:39 remaining in the third quarter, but then the Bears kicked things into high gear. Following Pinto’s trey, Plainview went on a 17-3 run to blow the game open at 50-31 heading into the fourth quarter.
Piedmont managed to get Plainview’s lead down to 11 at 50-39 on back-to-back treys by Pinto and an Alex Odam basket to open the fourth, but that would be as close as the Bulldogs would come down the stretch.
“Piedmont did a phenomenal job of getting us in transition a few times, making the right play and was scoring at a high level,” Coker said. “I thought as the game wore on we were able to get a couple of easy baskets out of the pressure. I thought in the second half you kind of saw them get a little leg-weary. Our guys did a great job of getting stops and rebounds.”
“We were in it there for a while,” Coach Odam said. “We battled, and that’s what I told my guys. I wouldn’t trade those 15 Bulldogs for anybody in the state of Alabama. I’ll go to battle with those guys any day.”
Pinto led the Bulldogs with 22 points, including four 3-pointers. Alex Odam added 12 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals. Bethel rang for eight points and grabbed four boards. Cole Wilson connected on a pair of treys and finished with six points.
Pinto, Alex Odam and Bethel were all-tournament selections.
Plainview junior forward Landon White led the Bears with 24 points and 13 rebounds to earn the tournament’s Most Valuable Player honor. Jonah Williams connected on four treys and had 17 points. Dylan Haymon delivered 13 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Williams and Haymon joined White from Plainview and Geraldine’s Jaxon Colvin on the all-tournament team.
Plainview advances to Birmingham for the Final Four where it will face either Southside-Selma or Sumter Central on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.