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Sperle caps Piedmont’s comeback with game-winner

Blake Colston
sports@piedmontnewsonline.com

Piedmont head coach Jordan Stark has been part of wild comebacks before as a player and a coach, but her team’s rally Saturday ranks among the best.

Her fourth-ranked Lady Wildcats came back from eight points down in the fourth quarter and six points behind in the last two minutes to edge No. 16 Lawton MacArthur, 54-53, on a shot from Maddie Sperle with six seconds to play to clinch a regional championship.

Blake Colston/Gazette Piedmont celebrates with the regional championship plaque after its 54-53 win over Lawton MacArthur.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Piedmont celebrates with the regional championship plaque after its 54-53 win over Lawton MacArthur.

“The girls kept their confidence the entire game and never gave up,” Stark said. “That’s them. All the credit to them. This shows how much the girls have developed as far as confidence and basketball knowledge.”

Especially Sperle, who said she’d never made a game-winning shot before Saturday. She said her plan on the final play was simple – make something good happen.

“Luckily it worked out,” she said.

Sperle drove into the paint and flipped up a one-handed shot that rattled around the rim and dropped. She intercepted the Highlanders’ final heave down the court to seal the game.

“We’ve been practicing for situations like that,” Sperle said, “so we just had to go out there and do it.”

A pair of free throws from Sydney Gunter, who scored 11 points, gave Mac a 53-50 lead with 22 seconds remaining. Piedmont answered with a layup from McKenna Kirkpatrick with 0:08. On MacArthur’s ensuing inbound pass, Destiny Cobb caught the ball cleanly near the baseline, but her momentum carried her out of bounds.

Sperle finished with 16 points to lead all scorers. Hannah Reasoner added 13 for Piedmont (21-3). Cobb and Neseana Carter put in 12 apiece for MacArthur (12-13).

MacArthur, which averaged 15 turnovers per game this season, limited its miscues all game, but committed four costly giveaways in the final minute. The Highlanders fouled Piedmont 40 feet from the basket twice down the stretch as well.

“Turnovers at the end just killed us. We couldn’t get the ball up the floor,” a despondent Macarthur head coach Danny Garza said afterwards. “Our effort was there, but we’ve got to make plays at the end. Instead going after the win we were afraid to lose and that’s what happened.”

The win moves Piedmont to within a game of its third state tournament appearance in four years. Momentum? Piedmont has some of that.

“I think this gives the girls the reassurance that if you just go out and take care of business, you go to state,” Stark said. “I think it gives them that extra push to go out, be confident and do what you do.”

MacArthur must now navigate its way through the Area consolation bracket for three consecutive games without a loss to reach state.

“We’ve just got to keep on fighting and see what happens next week,” Garza said.

Piedmont wrestlers head to state tournament Friday

Blake Colston
sports@piedmontnewsonline.com

For the second time in as many seasons, Piedmont’s wrestling team will take nearly its entire 14-man lineup to the Class 5A State Tournament, which begins Friday and continues through Saturday at State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City.

Blake Colston/Gazette Mitchell Lance wrestles a match earlier this season.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Mitchell Lance wrestles a match earlier this season.

Of the 10 Piedmont wrestlers who qualified at regionals in Del City last week, each forged his own unique path to Oklahoma City.

See the Class 5A Bracket 

Wyatt Lewis (160), Logan Chappell (126) and Mitchell Lance (132) are making return trips to state, though Lance’s way back was anything but ordinary. The sophomore qualified with a second place finish at regionals despite wrestling with a fractured ankle suffered four weeks prior.

“To see how hard he competed even though he’s completely out of shape and has no business being out there was impressive,” head coach Erik Ford said. “It’s a testament to his will-power and his toughness.”

Then there was 220-pounder Josh Heindselman, who was Piedmont’s lone regional champion. The sophomore won his 11th overtime match of the season in the finals to improve to 34-4 overall and in the process won his 24th consecutive match.

“It’s pretty impressive. He’s used to wrestling those 9-minute matches by now,” Ford said. “Going forward I think it’s great for him that he’s been in a lot of tough matches.”

The most pleasant surprise for Piedmont was freshman 113-pounder Bo Hardy coming from an unseeded position at the regional tournament to reach the finals and take second. On his way, Hardy defeated a pair of wrestlers which he’d gone a combined 0-5 against previously this season.

“We’ve known all year that Bo was talented and a really good wrestler,” Ford said. “We knew if things started to click for him that he’d have a good chance.”

Hardy, who is 21-14 on the year, said his confidence grew after he pulled his first upset.

“I started putting things together and wrestling a little bit better,” he said.

Ford said seeing 170-pound junior Hunter Johnson take fourth and qualify was also a bonus. Like Hardy, Johnson said he knew he had a chance after winning his first match.

“I could tell after that that I was wrestling well,” he said.

Other first-time qualifiers included senior Dylan Meador (195), junior Will Heindselman (182), junior Fisher Johnson (152) and senior Mason Moser (138).

Now, Piedmont will prepare to put together one more strong weekend to close out its season.

“We started talking about changing gears mentally on Saturday night and not just being happy that we’re there,” Ford said. “We want to put our sights on that next level, which is winning matches at the state tournament.”

Piedmont will enter the tournament as the only team guaranteed to leave with a trophy. The Wildcats were named Class 5A academic state champions this week and will be honored as well as pick up their hardware during the state tournament Friday at 4:45 at State Fair Arena.

 

Lady Wildcats host Western Heights tonight in regional opener

Blake Colston
sports@piedmontnewsonline.com

For the fourth-ranked Piedmont Lady Wildcats, playing their first two postseason games at home is only part of the reason why they’re confident that they can make their third state tournament appearance in four seasons.

Blake Colston/Gazette Piedmont celebrates after Maci Attalla's game-winner Tuesday. Attalla, second from right, scored six points.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Piedmont celebrates after Maci Attalla’s game-winner Tuesday. Attalla, second from right, scored six points.

Beyond that, the Lady Wildcats (19-3) know they’re battled tested – Piedmont is 7-2 against the 5A Top 20 this season, with its only losses coming to Shawnee – and that they have as much talent as anyone they’ll face going forward.

“I think we have the most talent,” senior Maddie Sperle said, “it’s just about if we come out every night and use it.”

The road to the state tournament begins tonight at 8 p.m. against Western Heights at Collett Fieldhouse, then continues on, most likely, Saturday at 1:30 in Piedmont against the winner of No. 16 Lawton MacArthur and Guthrie.

See the Class 5A Bracket

“Anytime you get an opportunity to play a couple extra games on your home court it automatically gives you some extra energy,” head coach Jordan Stark said. Piedmont is 9-1 at home this season.

PHS is also 6-0 against the teams in its home regional and has won five of the six by double figures, so there’s plenty of reason for the Lady Wildcats to feel good about advancing. Sperle said taking teams lightly can’t be something they do this postseason, though.

“We have to come out and play hard. We aren’t going to beat every team with just our athletic ability,” she said.

If Piedmont stays in the winner’s bracket as expected, the Lady Wildcats will face another familiar foe, El Reno, in the Area tournament for a chance to go to state. It’s an El Reno team that Piedmont has beaten twice this year, which Stark said is both a good and bad thing, potentially. Each game with the Indians was decided by just two points.

“That matchup is a little scary because it’s hard to beat a team three times,” Stark said. “But I’m excited to play them again because the girls know what to expect and what they have to do to stop them.”

In terms of wins and losses, Piedmont has faced very little adversity this season, averaging just one loss per month, but will enter the postseason off a 62-39 drubbing at third-ranked Shawnee in a game that was for the Suburban

Conference championship. Stark said it was Piedmont’s worst performance of the season and came at a bad time. Not the worst, though.

“I would rather get that game out now then it out come out in the playoffs at any point,” Stark said.

The second-year coach has been hesitant to talk about her team’s chances of advancing to the state tournament previously this season, but with the playoffs set to get underway she stated the Lady Wildcats’ goal plainly.

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t make it (to state),” Stark said. “For us to succeed, we all have to buy in and be on the same page.”

Piedmont girls beat Tahlequah for Bethany Classic title

Blake Colston
sports@piedmontnewsonline.com

BETHANY – Piedmont didn’t make a singular play down the stretch of Monday night’s Bethany Classic girls championship game to beat Tahlequah.

Blake Colston/Gazette Taylor Clowers of Piedmont, left, tries to drive around Tahlequah's Alyson Hart Monday night in Bethany.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Taylor Clowers of Piedmont, left, tries to drive around Tahlequah’s Alyson Hart Monday night in Bethany.

The Lady Wildcats made them all.

Hannah Reasoner put home a layup off a steal with less than 15 seconds to play to take away Tahlequah’s last chance to tie the game and sealed a 12-2 run down the stretch in No. 5 Piedmont’s 49-45 win.

“It really boiled down to the girls stepping up,” head coach Jordan Stark said. “They did a really good job of sticking to the gameplan.”

Maci Attalla led Piedmont with 17 points and McKenna Kirkpatrick added 11 as the Lady Wildcats improved to 8-1 while taking home the title. Attalla was Piedmont’s go-to weapon in the paint, especially in the first half when she scored 13 points.

“Maci did a great job. I don’t even know if she can play that well again, but I hope she can,” Stark said. “She did this a little bit last year. She was timid and apprehensive to start then all of a sudden something clicks and she goes beast mode and nothing can stop her. She’s one of the strongest girls on the team.”

Attalla said she had a feeling it was going to be a good night when she made her first basket and was sure it was when she lost control of a shot along the baseline that slipped out of her hand and banked in from a difficult angle during the third quarter.

“I’m not really sure how that went it, but I meant to do that,” she said sarcastically. Read more →

Piedmont’s Hampton to take field at Cotton Bowl Monday

Blake Colston
sports@piedmontnewsonline.com

ARLINGTON, Texas — Monday’s Cotton Bowl Classic between Big 10 Power Wisconsin (10-3) and unbeaten upstart Western Michigan (13-0) set to air on ESPN at noon local time will feature a special local connection.

Blake Colston/Gazette Butch Hampton addresses a crowd at a signing ceremony in Piedmont.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Butch Hampton addresses a crowd at a signing ceremony in Piedmont.

Piedmont native Butch Hampton will handle all the placekicking duties for Western Michigan and could play a big role in helping the Broncos, who are 7 1/2 point underdogs to the Badgers, pull the upset of bowl season.

Hampton will become the first Piedmont alum to play in a New Years Day or later bowl game.

Per team policy, Western Michigan freshmen football players weren’t allowed to speak to the media all season, so no one had heard from Hampton in an official capacity since he left for Kalamazoo last spring.

Saturday, Hampton talked to the media for the first time during Cotton Bowl Media Day. He spoke about the process of transforming from a player that was rarely relied upon in crucial situations in high school games to one that had to make kicks to keep an undefeated season alive, and the unusual steps Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck has taken to prepare him to kick under pressure. Read about those here. 

“Coming in was terrifying, I was very nervous,” Hampton told mlive.com. “I was moving away from my home, away from my family and to be honest I had never kicked in a game where it actually, truly mattered — where I could affect the outcome of it.

“So to come into a team that’s expected to do great things this year and expected to start as a true freshman, it was very intimidating to me. I think that’s why it was so important, at the time I might not have understood it, but the things coach Fleck put me through, in hindsight I can see how those have probably been the most influential things my freshman year.”

His kicking exploits this season are well known around Piedmont by now, but bare repeating. Hampton has made 18 of 23 field goals with a long of 47 yards in the season opener at Northwestern and has also hit 70 of his 71 extra-point tries.

It’s fair to say Western might not be in this position without Hampton, as a single loss would’ve knocked them out of New Year’s Six Bowl contention.

In the Broncos’ Mid American Conference Championship game win over Ohio, he made five field goals and both of his PAT attempts en route to being named Special Teams Player of the Game in a 29-23 victory. That game clinched a Cotton Bowl Berth. He also made 3 of 4 field goals in a 22-21 win at Big 10 foe Northwestern in September.

“Coach challenged him in the summertime, and he’s just responded all year,” Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell said to mlive.com after the MAC Championship game. “There’s been some scenarios here and there where we kind of felt like he was losing his confidence a little bit, but he stepped up huge.”

Hampton was rated a 5-star kicker coming out of Piedmont, according to Chris Sailer Kicking, a website specializing in evaluating potential college kickers, punters and long snappers. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Army recruited him as a walk-on, but Hampton stuck by a year-long commitment to the Broncos.

“I know coach Fleck and I feel like a word is as good as a signature to him,” Hampton said. “I knew that he wasn’t going to take away my offer and I wasn’t going to take away my commitment from him so, it worked out for me, that’s for sure.”

He graduated high school early to join Western Michigan’s squad for spring practice to compete for the starting job. He won it by the fall and hasn’t looked back since.

“One thing about him is that he is an incredible competitor,” Fleck said. “He’s one of those guys who understands what he does wrong if it’s wrong and he understand what he does right when it’s right.

“He has an incredible feel for his kicking mechanics.”

Monday afternoon at Jerry World against No. 8 Wisconsin, Hampton will kick in front of a crowd expected to top 70,000, on the biggest stage of his young career. But he’s ready.

“The best feeling that I get when I go out there is knowing I can do my job regardless of the situation because I’ve been through more difficult situations,” Hampton said.

Piedmont wins at No. 7 Carl Albert

Blake Colston
sports@piedmontnewsonline.com

MIDWEST CITY – This time it was different.

Blake Colston/Gazette Piedmont's Kish Chandler drives to the basket Tuesday night in the Wildcats' win over Carl Albert.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Piedmont’s Kish Chandler drives to the basket Tuesday night in the Wildcats’ win over Carl Albert.

Piedmont made all the plays down the stretch and pulled away for a 66-52 win at seventh-ranked Carl Albert Tuesday night behind a game-high 26 points and 10 rebounds from Maddie Sperle. The win helped PHS rebound from a home loss to fourth-ranked Shawnee in another early season Top 10 matchup.

The No. 8 Lady Wildcats improved to 3-1 overall and scored a major early season road victory against a traditional Class 5A power. They did it with execution down the stretch on both ends.

“They followed the gameplan, they ran the plays, they finished their shots and if they got fouled they made their free throws,” head coach Jordan Stark said. “That, to me, was the difference in the game.”

Piedmont led by nine at half, 31-22, but a quick spurt from Carl Albert led by a 3-point barrage from Charissa Price pulled the Titans even at 38 with 2:22 to play in the third quarter. The Lady Wildcats scored the final four points of the quarter capped by a Taylor Clowers hoop in the lane and never lost the lead again.

Mostly because Carl Albert never found a way to slow down Sperle. The SWOSU signee hit three 3-pointers, made 11 free throws – including five clutch makes in the final minutes – scored off the dribble and in the paint. Sperle and senior guard Hannah Reasoner each hit 3-pointers in a 14-5 Piedmont run that spanned from late in the third to early in the fourth.

“That’s the beauty of our team. We have girls that can pretty much do anything,” Stark said. “We’re extremely versatile and we want to use that to our advantage.”

Reasoner chipped in with 15 and Kish Chandler, Piedmont’s steady senior point guard, added 12. Price scored 15 for Carl Albert (4-3).

After Piedmont’s 44-40 home loss to No. 4 Shawnee, in which PHS didn’t make the plays when it counted, Stark was pleased to see her team’s turnaround in the fourth quarter Tuesday.

“I think the weaknesses we showed against Shawnee, we overcame those tonight,” Stark said.

Boys
Carl Albert 81, Piedmont 57

Piedmont hung with top-ranked Carl Albert for a half, trailing just 31-19 at the break, but the Titans pulled away in the second half to keep the Wildcats winless on the year.

Trey Hopkins scored 25 points for CAHS to lead all scorers. Mason Harrell added 21 for the Titans, who improved to 4-0 with the win.

Hunter Oden scored 11 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, to pace Piedmont. Sophomore Rylan McDaniel had 10.

Piedmont trailed 22-7 after a quarter, but sliced into Carl Albert’s lead in the second period and was behind by only 12 at intermission. Carl Albert answered by outscoring Piedmont 30-11 to start the second half, though and led by as many as 33. PHS continued the back and forth by winning the fourth quarter, 27-21.

Piedmont edges El Reno on Attalla’s buzzer-beater

Blake Colston
sports@piedmontnewsonline.com

El Reno owned the offensive glass in its season-opening matchup with Piedmont, but when the Lady Wildcats needed a rebound most, they got one.

Blake Colston/Gazette Piedmont celebrates after Maci Attalla's game-winner Tuesday. Attalla, second from right, scored six points.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Piedmont celebrates after Maci Attalla’s game-winner Tuesday. Attalla, second from right, scored six points.

Maci Attalla gathered in a rebound off a Maddie Sperle miss with 1.2 seconds left and put a shot in off the glass as the horn sounded to give Piedmont a 51-49 victory over the Indians Tuesday night at Collett Fieldhouse.

The 13th-ranked Lady Wildcats (1-0) led for the entire first half, but El Reno grabbed a 43-42 lead on a 3-pointer from Rachelle Roman Nose with 6:42 to play in the third quarter. From there, the game see-sawed back-and-forth until the final minute when Maddie Sperle evened the game at 49 with a layup with 0:18 left in regulation.

No. 11 El Reno (0-1) seemed poised to take the final shot, but threw the ball away, opening the door for Attalla’s heroics.

Attalla finished with six points, nine rebounds, and the most important basket of the game. Millwood transfer Kish Chandler led Piedmont with 16 points. McKenna Kirkpatrick added nine points, all on 3-pointers, to go with seven rebounds. Hannah Reasoner also scored nine.  Read more →

Local mom claims Piedmont schools violating federal law

James White image

James White

Melanie Berry image

Melanie Berry

By Tim Farley
News Editor
Melanie Berry wants Piedmont school officials to do their job and help her teenage son with problems stemming from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

After years of dealing with the district’s Special Services Director Lynda White and Superintendent James White, Berry was fed up with the lack of action regarding her son and daughter, both of whom require special services for their educational disabilities.

In June, Berry filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education alleging Piedmont school administrators discriminated against her eighth-grade son because of his disability. Berry claims her son’s ADHD “substantially limits his ability to concentrate, think and communicate.”

Superintendent White said the district has not received official notification of a civil rights complaint.

Berry’s son is intelligent and has a high IQ. He’s enrolled in Advanced Placement classes and scores high on tests. He’s also been on the Academic Team since fourth grade.

“His working memory is at the top of the charts, but his processing speed is at the bottom of the charts,” Berry said. “His brain is working so fast he can retain it all, but then he tries to write it out and the brakes go on.” Read more →

Report cards show progress

Piedmont School's report card

By Tim Farley
News Editor
Piedmont Superintendent James White doesn’t put much faith in state-issued report cards for individual schools.

It’s not because the high school dropped from an A to a B or that Piedmont Elementary went from an A to a B+. In fact, there were mixed results this year with Stone Ridge Elementary elevating its grade slightly while others like Piedmont Intermediate remained steady.

“We’re about in line with what it’s been in past years,” White said. “It’s really hard to put much stock in them because of how they’re adjusted from year to year. They’re nice grades to get but it’s not necessarily any goals we’ve set.”

Instead, Piedmont school officials would rather focus on graduation rates, attendance figures and ACT scores.

“We can monitor each of those every year and see if we improved or not,” White said.

School officials also like to brag about national honors such as the Blue Ribbon Award received recently by Northwood Elementary as one of the top schools in the country. White, school principal Lisa Campbell and four teachers traveled to Washington, D.C. earlier this month to accept the award. Read more →

Ardmore’s big plays push it past Piedmont in first round of playoffs

Blake Colston
sports@piedmontnewsonline.com

ARDMORE – Fourth-ranked Ardmore threw two passes Friday night. One was intercepted and another was incomplete.

Photo by Holly Cowden Jacob Storts recovers an Ardmore fumble in the second half Friday night.

Photo by Holly Cowden
Jacob Storts recovers an Ardmore fumble in the second half Friday night.

It was what the Tigers did the rest of the time that made the difference. Ardmore’s option attack totaled 397 yards on 44 carries and Jordan Roberts, the star of night, scored three touchdowns in a 35-0 first-round playoff win over Piedmont at Noble Stadium.

Ardmore (9-2, 6-1) advances to play at top-seeded Tulsa Bishop Kelley Friday while Piedmont’s season comes to an end at 6-5 overall.

“They’re very methodical and disciplined and they execute extremely well,” Piedmont head coach Drew Gossen said of the Tigers’ keys to victory. “We knew trying to defend this offense was going to be a challenge and it was.”

Roberts, who flashed brilliant speed on each of his big plays, gathered in an option pitch and sprinted 52 yards untouched for Ardmore’s first touchdown of the game. He added a 21-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and a 34-yard interception return for a score to put the game on ice in the fourth quarter.

It’s what Ardmore head coach Josh Newby has gotten accustomed to from the 6-foot-1, 171-pound senior. Roberts credited his coaches for putting him in the right spots to make the big plays Friday night.

“Coach had great play-calling and put me in best position to get into the end zone,” Roberts said. “I just made the right cuts and made the right moves that I needed to.”

It wasn’t just Roberts, though. Chantz Scurry capped off a 29-yard scoring drive from Ardmore with a 2-yard plunge up the middle to give the Tigers a 21-0 lead with 0:21 left in the third quarter. Scurry carried 18 times for 160 yards and two scores to compliment Roberts’ six carries for 82 yards. Kobe Pickens had nine carries for 97 yards.

“It’s not one, it’s three or four guys who rack up the yards,” Gossen said. “You have to defend all of them on every single play and that makes it tough.”

Highlights were few and far between for Piedmont, which gained only one yard in the second half. Tanner Knight picked off an Anthony Kimmons pass at the Piedmont 12-yard line to snuff out a Tiger scoring opportunity late in the first half, and Jacob Storts returned a Tiger fumble 21 yards late in the fourth quarter.

Still, Piedmont had a potentially program-building season that ended with consecutive losses to Top 5 teams, but was otherwise stellar.

“The teams in the future at Piedmont have a lot to look up to,” Gossen said. “These guys set a standard that’s very high and you can’t ask for more than that.”

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