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Piedmont hopes to put late-season skid behind it

Blake Colston
sports@piedmontnewsonline.com

By late Friday evening, Piedmont hopes its three-game losing streak to end the regular season is a distant memory.

Blake Colston/Gazette Addaryl Quinn drives the ball up the court against Lattaryus Smith of Star Spencer.

Blake Colston/Gazette
Addaryl Quinn drives the ball up the court against Lattaryus Smith of Star Spencer.

If the Wildcats can knock off 18th-ranked Northwest Classen in the opening game of the Class 5A postseason, in a game set to be played at Carl Albert Friday at 8 p.m., the losing streak almost certainly will be just that.

The Wildcats lost in their opening round postseason game last year, but Troy Lallemand believes this team is much-improved, more experienced and hungry to put a disappointing regular season behind them.

“Legitimate teams kind of take off at this point of the year,” the second-year coach said. “This is really kind of the season that counts. It’s cliché a little bit, but it’s absolutely true. Everyone is 0-0 now.”

Led by super sophomore forward Adokiye Iyaye, for stretches this season, Piedmont has seemed like a team that could make noise in late February and early March. Piedmont beat 4A No. 7 Chickasha, 5A No. 4 El Reno and lost by only five to 5A No. 3 Lawton Ike. But the Wildcats slumped down the stretch, losing three straight games and scoring just 81 points in their last two contests, both double-digit losses on the road against Shawnee and Noble.

A fourth straight loss would end Piedmont’s season at 7-17 overall.

“To me, I look at it as an opportunity,” Lallemand said of playing in a win-or-go-home game. “That’s on the kids if they look at it as pressure.”

Lallemand expects Classen (13-9), primarily a man-to-man team, to employ a zone defense Friday. Zones have bothered Piedmont down the stretch. Piedmont’s best outside shooters have been slowed by them and, for whatever reason, the Wildcats struggle to finish around the basket, too.

“We have to find confidence against it early on,” Lallemand said. “We get good shots against the zone, but we’re just not making them right now. We’ve got to have guys finish more. It’s going to be a slower paced game, so we just have to adjust.”

Piedmont and Northwest Classen met in the opening game of Lallemand’s tenure at Piedmont last season, a game won by the Knights, 68-51. Classen is younger this season, but still talented and, as always, athletic.

“They’re long, athletic and they’ll change it up defensively to keep you guessing,” Lallemand said. “They’re young, but at this point in the year the inexperience should be somewhat canceled out.”

If Piedmont wins, it will almost certainly face top-ranked Carl Albert for a third time this season on Saturday night with a trip to the Area Tournament already clinched. First things first, though. PHS has to shake its late-season skid and regain its top form. If it does that, Piedmont could certainly advance to its first Area Tournament since 2014.

“Our kids need to have a good week of preparation so they have confidence going into Friday night,” Lallemand said. “We need to get some life back and get some enthusiasm.”

“They’re long, athletic and they’ll change it up defensively to keep you guessing,” Lallemand said. “They’re young, but at this point in the year the inexperience should be somewhat canceled out.”

If Piedmont wins, it will almost certainly face top-ranked Carl Albert for a third time this season on Saturday night with a trip to the Area Tournament already clinched. First things first, though. PHS has to shake its late-season skid and regain its top form. If it does that, Piedmont could certainly advance to its first Area Tournament since 2014.

“Our kids need to have a good week of preparation so they have confidence going into Friday,” Lallemand said. “We need to get some life and some enthusiasm.”

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