The Highlanders let a first half lead slip away and lost to San Leandro, 63-58, at Binks gym on January 29. Piedmont played without leading scorer junior Luke Harris, who sustained a mild concussion in the Berkeley game the previous Friday.
Piedmont started fast, scoring the first points on a 3-pointer by senior Luke Barrett, and ending the first quarter with a 14-8 lead. Barrett had five in the period, with senior David Kisieu adding four points and sophomore JoJo Murphy chipping in with three.
The Highlanders extended their lead in the second quarter, with senior DaRon Benson netting five points and senior Josh Eidam adding five, both off the bench. The half ended with Piedmont up 28-17 after Benson banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“We played great defense in the first half, and that led to fast breaks and open looks,” noted coach Ben Spencer. “Josh and DaRon gave us a nice spark when they came in.”
San Leandro started its comeback immediately in the second half, however, on a perfectly-executed alley-oop to senior Ciri Sawyers, who Piedmont held scoreless in the first half. It was a sign of things to come, as Sawyers racked up 11 points in the third quarter and the Pirates narrowed the lead to 41-37. Barrett and fellow senior Paul Davies scored all of the Highlanders points in the quarter, with Davies hitting two 3-pointers and adding a layup.
Sawyers continued his dominant inside-outside play in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 points on a variety of spin moves for layups, and mid-range and long-range jumpers when Piedmont’s defenders gave him some space.
“We knew he (Sawyers) had a really nice game around the basket,” Spencer said, “but we were a little surprised by how good he was from outside. He just killed us in the second half.”
San Leandro took its first lead at 49-47 with 3:30 left in the game. Murphy, who kept Piedmont in the game with seven points in the fourth, converted a layup after a steal to tie the game at 49. San Leandro made two 3-pointers, including a pro-range bomb by Sawyers, to take a six-point lead at 56-50 with 1:30 left. A parade to the foul line ensued, and the Pirates hit five of six clutch free throws. Benson pulled the Highlanders to 61-58 on a long 3-pointer with 15 seconds left, but San Leandro made another two foul shots to ice the game.
“We got away from our good ball movement in the first half at the end of the game. It was more one-on-one in the fourth quarter, and we just couldn’t recover from Sawyers’ shots and all the foul shots they made”, Spencer concluded. “Tip your cap to them, but I like our chances with Luke (Harris) back for the rematch in two weeks.”
Davies led Piedmont with 13 points, while Barrett and Murphy scored 12 each. Sawyers paced San Leandro with 23 points, all in the second half, and Enrique Aguirre added 17 for the Pirates, including two important 3-pointers late in the game.
Piedmont is now 17-3 overall, and 3-2 in the West Alameda County Conference, behind both Bishop O’Dowd (currently undefeated in league play) and San Leandro, which is 15-6 overall and 4-1 in the WACC. The Highlanders get another shot at O’Dowd on February 5, and finish the regular season against San Leandro on February 14.
Photos by Devon O’Shaughnessy