A Guthrie three-pointer in the last four minutes of the game almost took the wind out of Piedmont’s sails, but outstanding performances by Collin Bricker, Jacob Swigart and Keith Vick propelled Piedmont to a 44-42 win over the No. 12 team in Class 5A.
The first half was all Vick and John Stephens. They combined for 17 of the Wildcats 19 first half points. But a few breakdowns on defense saw Guthrie’s hot handed shooters tie the game at the 1:47 mark of the second quarter, then take a halftime lead on a buzzer beater.
Guthrie came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, extending its lead to nine before a Swigart jumper spurred a Piedmont rally. Bricker flew around the court nabbing rebounds and helped set up a Jimmy Guerra three-pointer that tied the game again. Guthrie would take a 34-32 lead into a whirlwind of a fourth quarter.
Another slow start let Guthrie jump out to a big lead, thanks to some sharp shooting from the perimeter. Slowly, the tide started to turn for the Wildcats with a Swigart jumper, then a Vick lay up and a pair of free throws. Down the stretch, all the things that echo through the gym during practice were shown through the efforts of Bricker and Swigart. Battling for the rebound, ball movement, and free throws are what won the game for Piedmont.
Swigart would make a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left to give Piedmont the lead for good.
“I was just thinking about the next defensive set,” Swigart said when asked what was going through his mind as he sank the game winning free throw. “I wasn’t worried about the shot.”
Guthrie would charge down the court and put up a haphazard shot. Bricker pulled down the rebound and got the foul. He sank one of two free throws. A Guthrie desperation toss bounced off the back board and into the hands of Swigart and the Piedmont crowd went nuts.
“We have to stay tough, mentally and physically,” Swigart said. “We can’t go weak like we did at SNU (earlier this month). We have to keep our heads up and go strong.”
“We executed at the end of the game,” Coach Ryan Wagner said. “Out of every time out we had a good possession. That’s not something you get to practice and the kids stepped up and did it. Our game management with four minutes left was outstanding.
“Bricker’s important for what we do,” Wagner said. “For him to execute on offense and on the offensive and defensive glass is key for us.”
Tuesday’s win puts Piedmont in a tie for first place in the Suburban Conference with Guthrie.