Shorthanded Piedmont boys basketball gives Bishop O’Dowd a battle

Damin Esper

Piedmont's Ravi Silverberg (3) looks to pass out of a double-team by O'Dowd's Tobias Aisien (3 white) and Christopher Jackson (11). (Photo by Damin Esper)

Piedmont High School’s boys basketball team put up a good fight on Jan. 4, but ended up falling at Bishop O’Dowd, 57-51. The game was the West Alameda County Conference opener for the Highlanders (6-6).

Dillon Casey led Piedmont with 19 points. Brit Burden overcame foul trouble to put up 12 points and grab nine rebounds and hand out four assists. Ravi Silverberg had 11 points.

“It’s tough,” Burden said. “We always come so close with O’Dowd. We had a lot of chances at the end, couldn’t capitalize on it. I think we’re already putting it behind us, getting ready for Saturday (against Berkeley). Tough loss.

“I mean, hell of a fight. We got good looks. You can’t get mad at those open threes down the stretch. They just made some plays. Hell of a game. Props to them.”

O’Dowd’s Avery Loftus (35) looks to pass as Brit Burden (23) and Thorin Holmes (20) defend. (Photo by Damin Esper)

It has been a tough year so far for the Highlanders, as Alex Anderson suffered a knee injury to end his season against Analy in the season opener on Nov. 25. Then Declan Linnane broke his finger in mid-December. Down two starters, Piedmont coach Ben Spencer was playing just six players against the Dragons (8-5). It appeared it could be a mismatch.

And it started out in ominous fashion. The Highlanders won the tip, then had to use a timeout just 13 second in when Bishop O’Dowd immediate trapped the ball.

But things got better quickly. Piedmont went on an early 12-2 run to take a 12-4 lead. The Dragons responded, hitting three 3-pointers and taking an 18-17 lead at the end of the period. The Highlanders were using a 3-2 zone and it appeared to disrupt Bishop O’Dowd’s offense.

The teams went back-and-forth but with 3:41 remaining in the first half, Burden picked up his third foul. He went to the bench in favor of Lucas Malecki, but Piedmont held tough and trailed just 34-32 at halftime.

“Obviously the first half fouls for him were difficult,” Spencer said. “He wasn’t able to be as aggressive as he wanted to. He kept asking if he could go back in but he’s just too valuable of a player to pick up that fourth foul in the first half.

“We went small with him getting that third foul and they had two free throws in the final four and a half minutes in the first half. In the past, we’ve seen when our star player goes out, we’ve seen that gap open up wide. We actually closed it. We were down six when he went out and we were down two going into half.”

Arjun Bornstein (2) and Dillon Casey (12) defend O’Dowd’s Joshua Green. (Photo by Damin Esper)

Piedmont’s defense gave it a shot to take control in the third quarter, holding the Dragons to six points on three of 13 shooting from the floor (23 percent). But the Highlanders couldn’t put a run together. Then, with 1:44 to go in the quarter, Burden was called for going over the back on a rebound and his fourth foul. The scoreboard showed 40-38 Piedmont at the time.

It remained close until the final minute. With 59.1 seconds left, Silverberg hit two free throws to put the Highlanders up, 51-50. But with 0:41 left, Leo Chapman passed to Joshua Green, who hit a 3-pointer to put Bishop O’Dowd up for good. With 0:23 remaining, Casey missed a 3-pointer, Samuel Chavarin got the rebound for the Dragons and Piedmont had to start fouling.

Chapman finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists. Tobias Aisien had 14 points and nine rebounds for Bishop O’Dowd.

Piedmont hosts Berkeley at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 6.

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