By Evan Grice
While it might have been opening night at the brand new Deer Creek Performing Arts and Athletic Center, it was the No. 9 Piedmont Lady Wildcats who stole the show on center stage.
Finding themselves down 25-22 at the half, PHS used a strong 15-6 run in the third followed by a shutdown fourth quarter to silence the defending state champion and top-ranked Lady Antlers by a score of 46-39.
The win also marked the first victory for first-year head coach Jamie Hill in charge of the Lady Wildcats.
Piedmont’s biggest lead of the night came with 2:56 left in the third quarter at 34-27, and again late in the fourth quarter. Deer Creek never led by more than four points in any stage of the game.
“We knew this was going to be the toughest challenge we’ve ever faced,” Piedmont coach Jamie Hill said. “But, I know this team and I know these girls. It was just a case if we were going to go out there and execute tonight. We had great defense, great rebounding, and great scoring. This was a full team effort and that’s what it takes is everyone coming together and doing something.”
Once the Lady Wildcats grabbed the lead at 29-27 with 3:58 left in the third, there was simply no stopping them.
From that moment on, Piedmont looked and played like a seasoned veteran team, keeping the champions at bay in all aspects of the game, making big plays when necessary as well.
Most of the big plays on the night came from Hayden Priddy, who finished with a game-high 22 points, the majority of them coming from behind the three-point line.
However, Priddy’s impact looked to be in serious doubt in the second quarter, when she had to come out due to having three fouls. But, the break didn’t faze Priddy as she came back stronger in the third and fourth quarters.
“I knew my team could hold on, there was no doubt about that,” Priddy said about having to watch the end of the first half. “There was a sense of frustration because those were stupid fouls. But, they stepped up and made the points I couldn’t make. I was just looking to score in the second half and give my team a boost out there. Coach Hill told me before the game I had to shoot the ball, and I was just glad my shots went in.”
Coach Hill praised her team for the way the other girls stepped up when Priddy was on the bench with foul trouble.
“I can’t even express how proud I am of these girls,” she said. “When your point guard goes out for an extended period of time, that’s your leader. It requires other girls to step up and take control. We had our whole team out there taking control. Maddie Sperle didn’t score any points, but she played great defense and rebounded for us. Sydney (Morrison) played great on-the-ball defense and got steals for us. Everyone contributed to this win tonight.”
In an entertaining, back-and-fourth first quarter, it was the Lady Antlers who took the early 4-0 advantage over Piedmont, before the Lady Wildcats cut the lead to 4-3.
PHS (1-0) took its first lead of the game at 15-14 with just 48 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Bre Reid finished the game with nine points, followed by Alex Hall with six points. Sydney Morrison collected four points, with Kayden Carver putting in three points.
Abbey Renner led Deer Creek (0-1) with 11 points on the night with Bayli Blanchard putting in eight points.
Piedmont will open the home portion of its schedule Tuesday night Dec. 10 against Western Heights with tip-off set for 6:30 p.m. from Collett Fieldhouse.