The Lady Bulldogs were seeking their 20th win of the season. They haven't had much success against the Lady Warriors throughout their varsity basketball careers, and they haven't had much success against ranked teams this season.
But instead of a long rah-rah talk, Deerman said very little to them before the game. He knew they knew what was at stake, and that was all the motivation they needed.
That motivation led Piedmont to a 42-39 victory.
"I kind of knew with the leadership we have this year I didn't need to make a big deal out of it," Deerman said. "But I told them after the game 'Ya'll don't understand how much that game meant to me. I'm proud for ya'll because I knew how bad ya'll wanted it coming into it.' In big games with Jacksonville and Anniston, we haven't won those games yet, but I thought that was a huge confidence booster to beat a team who's ranked in the top 10 in 4A.
"I told them at times tonight, if we play like we did, we've got a chance to make some noise in the playoffs. It's good to be doing that at this time of the year."
Senior center BreAnna Thompson had her usual impact performance for the Lady Bulldogs (20-6). She led all scorers with 20 points to go along with five rebounds, four steals and two assists. Senior forward Sarah Garner contributed six points, eight boards, four steals and an assist, but it was the performance of sophomore guard Bre Green that helped push Piedmont over the edge.
Green came away with 11 points, including three 3-pointers, to go along with five steals, three assists and a pair of rebounds.
"We usually put her on somebody we feel like is not going to hurt us outside, just because she plays such good help defense," Deerman said of Green. "She rebounds the ball well and is really smart. To her credit, she's out there with four seniors, but she's one of those kids where you tell her to do something and it's going to get done. I think the world of her. She's going to be something special. She already is."
Cherokee County coach Travis Barnes also said Green was a major factor in the Lady Bulldogs' victory.
"Any time you play Piedmont, you try to take away their inside game, but if their shooters are hitting from the outside, then you're going to be in trouble," Barnes said. "That's what happened tonight. She stepped up for them."
Speaking of stepping up, junior guard Jessen Burk did so again for the Lady Warriors (19-6). She led Cherokee County with 19 points.
Darbie Rosser connected on three treys and added 12 points for Cherokee County.
"We did a really good job on Burk in the first quarter, but then she got going," Deerman said. "Once she gets going, she's hard to stop, but I thought the whole game we did a good job on Tori (Davis)."
As Deerman said, Piedmont limited the Lady Warrior senior forward to just five points.
"She didn't have a good game, but they played her well defensively," Barnes said. "BreAnna probably plays her better than anybody she's seen all year, but that's good for her. We lost by three, and Tori has five points. That pretty much sums up the game right there."
Cherokee County held an 11-9 advantage at the end of the first quarter and a 24-22 lead at halftime. Piedmont jumped out in front 31-30 heading into the fourth quarter and built as much as an eight-point cushion at 38-30 on a pair of Green free throws with 2:15 to go.
The Lady Warriors managed to cut Piedmont's lead to three on Burk's 3-pointer at the buzzer for the final.
"We kept it close with our defense, but offensively, we just didn't execute," Barnes said. "Our shots weren't falling. We actually shot a pretty good percentage, but we had 23 turnovers and we had three offensive rebounds. We didn't come to play tonight, and that's what I told them. I wasn't mad. I just told them Piedmont wanted it more than we did."
Piedmont boys 71, Cherokee County boys 65
PIEDMONT - Piedmont junior guard Ty Sparks connected on 6 of 8 free-throw attempts in the final 50 seconds, lifting the Piedmont Bulldogs to a 71-65 win over rival Cherokee County on Tuesday.
After holding a 37-27 halftime lead, Piedmont (7-15) had to hold off a furious Warrior comeback. Cherokee County (6-19) fought its way back to take a 58-57 lead on a 3-pointer by senior guard Josh Higgins with 4:23 to go in the game. Piedmont stretched its lead back out to three points at 63-60 with just over a minute left, but the Warriors tied the game at 63 on junior forward Tony Pruitt's trey with 1:04 to go.
That set the stage for Sparks down the stretch.
"What we were happy about is we had several people make mistakes, but we had several players make big contributions," Piedmont coach Tommy Lewis said. "We've got nine or 10 guys who did a good thing, like hit a shot or hit a free throw, and we're real proud of that."
Cherokee County coach Travis Barnes said he was proud of his guys' effort as well, but the Warriors "didn't managed the end of the game well."
"We turned the ball over I think three possessions in a row where we could have built our lead," he said. "We didn't execute what we wanted to do and just turned the ball over at the end. I can't fault our guys for their effort. The effort was there. We just didn't manage the end of the game well."
Piedmont was aided down the stretch by Warrior foul trouble, particularly with senior guard JoJo Diamond.
Diamond had 13 points, including three treys to go along seven rebounds, three steals and two assists, but he fouled out of the game with 3:45 remaining.
"The thing about JoJo tonight was he was hot, but he stayed in foul trouble most of the night, which made him have to sit. That kind of hurt us," Barnes said. "With his 3-point shooting, that opens everybody else's drive up. They started packing it in a little more in the fourth quarter, and we couldn't get to the rim."
Pruitt led the Warriors with 25 points, including three 3-pointers, to go along with seven rebounds, three steals and two assists. Freshman center Nahum Horton had nine points and five rebounds. Junior guard Darius Covington contributed six points, five assists, five boards and three steals. Higgins finished with five points and five rebounds.
"They've got a pretty good combination," Lewis said of the Warriors. "Tony is a great all-around player. I told our players to pretty much let him take threes, but always respect the drive. He's a scorer. When he goes to the goal, he goes to the goal. He had a huge 3-pointer there for them. That combination of him being able to drive, Boogie (Covington) being able to drive and JoJo and Higgins all shooting threes, it's hard to guard them. You play man because you're afraid to stay in the zone. We changed our offensive lineup, but we were giving up on defense. Every trip we didn't score on offense, we were in bad shape on defense because they were so quick."
Junior guard Denard Spears led Piedmont with 15 points. Sophomore guard Dreek Thompson tallied 14 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Sparks had 10 points. Senior forward Jaylan Johnson came away with six points. Junior guard Caleb Adams and sophomore guard Tyler Lusk both finished with five points.