DEMOREST -- The Piedmont College men's basketball team stepped up its perimeter defense to shut down the Tigers of Sewanee, The University of the South on Tuesday in a 58-55 win in Demorest.
Piedmont trailed early but picked up offensive production off the bench in the first half to stay in the game until surging ahead in the second half for good in a win that snapped a four-game losing streak for the Lions who had played three straight NCAA tourney teams leading into tonight's contest.
The Lions' Jessie Jenkins broke a scoreless tie between the two 1:13 into the game on his jumper, the first two of nine points on the night for the veteran player. However, that was the only lead that Piedmont would have for the next 27 minutes of action on the court not regaining the advantage until the 11:43 mark of the second half as Sewanee scored 16 of the next 19 points after Jenkins' jumper to go up 16-5 with 8:12 remaining in the first half.
Piedmont then went on a 10-0 run to cut the deficit down to just one over the next four minutes of play, a stretch sparked by a three-pointer from Jordyn Propst off the bench, the first tri-fecta for the freshman who was 0-3 from downtown on the year before tonight. Propst was one of several boosts off the bench from Piedmont in that run as youngster Austin Pearson also connected on a three-point try during that five-minute spell though the back-to-back efforts from distance were the only two three's for Piedmont in the first half.
A jumper from Brian Edwards at the 1:43 mark made the visitors sweat the lead as Sewanee held a slim 21-19 advantage before watching Marcellus Caldwell drill a corner three at the buzzer to settle the home crowd and send the Tigers into the locker room at halftime up by five, 24-19. Piedmont's bench provided the lift in the first scoring 12 of PC's 19 points as the Lions struggled offensively as a team hitting just under 29 percent from the field compared to Sewanee's better than 42 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
Just over four minutes into the second half, Piedmont had come all the back to tie the game up at 30 all after Jessie Jenkins hit a three-pointer that gave the Cave Crazies life. Caldwell of Sewanee answered with a three of his own to keep his team in front, a spot the visitors stayed in for the next four minutes. It was then that another youngster stepped up for first-year Head Coach Greg Neeley as freshman Peyton Luken hit his only three-pointer of the night coming at a crucial time to give Piedmont a 39-37 lead with just under 12 to go in the low scoring affair.
The youth movement would continue as five freshman represented the Piedmont lineup on the floor at the 9:58 mark of the second half with newcomer Brian Edwards laying up the first of five straight points. Less than 30 seconds after that layup, Edwards worked for three the old fashion way to extend Piedmont's lead to 48-40 with all five Lions forecasting the future of good things to come for the men's basketball program.
After six straight Sewanee points threatened to spoil the 2014 homecoming for the Lions, freshman Chase England knocked down a key three to put PC back up by five at 51-46 with just over five remaining. The lead in the closing minutes grew as large as seven on Jenkins' layup at the 3:54 mark, but again Sewanee was able to come back closing to within one after a pair of free throws by freshman sensation Jorden Williams of Sewanee made the score 56-55 PC with 23 ticks on the clock.
Spurred by seeing his young teammates step up in key spots, it was veteran point guard Safari Smith who then got the ball in his hands on the ensuing in-bound as the speedster went coast-to-coast for the all-important layup to give Piedmont a three-point lead. After a Sewanee timeout, the Tigers were stifled by the suffocating Piedmont defense and unable to get the shot they wanted from star player Jorden Williams whose desperation fall away three hit only the backboard bouncing harmlessly to the ground to end the 58-55 home win for the Lions.
Piedmont's Alton Honors II and Brian Edwards tied for the team lead in points with a dozen each as Edwards shot better than 50 percent from the field (5-of-9) while Honors II connected on four of his 12 field goal tries. Honors II was a perfect 3-of-3 from the line while four of his eight field goal misses came from downtown. Piedmont struggled to get to the line in the game attempting just 10 free throws to Sewanee's 24 as the Tigers pushed the offensive pace early.
Jessie Jenkins tallied nine points on four of nine shooting while teammate Jordyn Propst also had nine with all of his scoring coming in the first half on 4-of-6 shooting from the field to give PC a big boost off the bench. Piedmont's reserves held a 22-6 scoring advantage over the Tigers coming off the Sewanee bench.
The leading rebounder for PC was also Propst who took down a half dozen boards all in the first half as Piedmont out-rebounded the Tigers 37-34. Safari Smith and Trae Gaines were next on the list tied for four each. Gaines and Smith each added a pair of assists as well with Edwards leading the way in that column with his four helpers.
The Lions move back to an even 5-5 on the season with the win tonight and wrap up the non-conference, early portion of the season with the contest. Piedmont has also now won all three of their home contests to start the year with seven of their first ten games coming away from Cave Arena, not an easy task for the young Lions.
Piedmont will begin USA South play for the first time ever in men's basketball on Friday with a visit to member school William Peace University after the Lions did not play a conference game in 2012-13, a shortened season for the program. Tip-off in the conference opener is set for 7:30 p.m. and fans can follow the audio broadcast courtesy of the WPU sports information department.