JACKSONVILLE, Ala.—In a game that saw 5 overtime periods, 10 lead changes, 9 ties and 8 of 10 starters score in double digits, the Plainview Bears defeated the Piedmont Bulldogs 74-65 Saturday to advance to the Class 3A Regional Finals.
Most true sports fans cringe when when they hear the phrase “Game of the Century“ or “Greatest Game of All Time.” So if you’re one of those people and you live in DeKalb County, get ready for a lot of cringing in the next few days. Because that’s already how many are describing what they witnessed today in Jacksonville in the 3A Regional Semifinals state tournament matchup between Plainview (27-4) and Peidmont (20-12).
“Forever is a long time. You hear people say that all the time about great games and big wins—that it was the greatest game of all time or greatest game ever. That's because we always want to be a part of it and say we were there when greatness happened,” Plainview Head Coach Robi Coker said. “There have been a lot of great basketball teams though who stepped up and won big games in DeKalb County through the years, so I can’t say where it matches up against all the others. It’s definitely one of the biggest games as far as Plainview goes though. I talked to a guy after the game that played on the ‘85 Plainview team that was so good, and he said it was the best game he had ever seen, so we’ll take that to the bank. It was a wild game, definitely the wildest game I’ve ever been a part of.”
Plainview trailed for most of the game and the 9-point margin of victory seen in the final score represents the largest lead they held all day. Piedmont led for almost 49 of 52 minutes of gameplay. But despite being down, the Bears did not give up—trailing but keeping themselves within striking distance of the Bulldogs all afternoon. Plainview simply would not go away, and their perseverance paid off, allowing a dramatic fourth quarter run to tie the game before the end of regulation and send the Bulldogs into the first of 5 overtimes.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my guys,” Plainview Varsity Boys Coach Robi Coker said. “We were down by 13 at one time and down by 11 close to the end but we just kept playing—our guys just kept battling. Our seniors were big. I saw two guys that lead by example today, two guys that aren’t very vocal but know how to lead no matter what. They were sophomores when we got here and have taken it on the chin with some tough losses to get where we are now, so I’m glad they could have a game like this. This was a big win for us today and a big win for the program.”
At the end of the first quarter Piedmont led Plainview 17-12. Neither team had a high-scoring second quarter and Plainview would go into the half trailing Piedmont 24-21. Piedmont began to pull away in the third quarter extending their lead to to as many as 13 points. But Plainview would not be denied. The Bears turned it on when it counted in the fourth, pouring in 23 points to Piedmont’s 10 and mounting a dramatic comeback to tie up the game 54-54 at the end of regulation and force the Bulldogs into overtime.
The first four periods of overtime would go back and forth. In the first OT both teams put up 5 points, followed by 0’s in the second, 4 apiece in the third and 2 each in the fourth OT. Going into the fifth overtime the score was tied up 65-65. Plainview would shut the Bulldogs out in the 5th OT, outscoring Piedmont 9-0.
Plainview senior Jake Slay played one of his best games all season, putting up 21 points, 7 rebounds and 1 assist and knocking down five 3-pointers. Fellow senior Will Kirk joined Slay in leading the Bears their improbable victory. Kirk put up a Double-Double with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 2 assists.
Coker commended Slay and Kirk for their leadership and extraordinary poise under pressure to keep their team in the game and not allow their teammates to quit. Plainview’s seniors also made clutch shots when it counted. But the win was a team effort. Caden Millican also had a big night with 14 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist. Jeffrey Armstong also reached double digits, putting up 11-4-1. And Clay Cooper dropped in 8-4-2.
The Plainview Bears will match up against a solid New Hope (23-3) team Wednesday at 10:45 a.m. at Pete Matthews Coliseum on the campus of Jacksonville State University for the Class 3A Regional Championship finals. New Hope is ranked 8th in the state in Class 3A and defeated Westbrook 66-47 to advance to the finals. If the Bears win Monday they will advance to the AHSAA Class 3A Final Four championship round of the state tournament in Birmingham.