Panthers get needed boost from bench
Piedmont's makeup game at Union Academy was a great opportunity to get the bench some experience.
The Panthers are having one of the best boys basketball seasons in school history, improving their record to 14-2 with Thursday's 69-45 win at Union Academy.
All 11 Panthers in uniform got good minutes, and 10 of them scored. The reserves contributed a season-high 18 points, nearly three times their 6.5 average.
Piedmont entered Thursday's game getting 86.5 percent of its points from the starters this season.
The Panthers have a terrific starting five, but the lack of scoring punch from the bench makes them vulnerable to foul trouble and injuries.
Piedmont played without starting small forward Eli Hyatt (ankle injury) on Thursday, and they missed his energy.
But his absence opened up even more minutes for the backups, including senior LJ Pettiway and junior Tyler Ivey, who combined for 13 points.
If the Panthers make the finals of the Rocky River Conference tournament next month, Tuesday will begin a stretch of 10 games in 24 days.
To have some gas left in the tank for the postseason, Piedmont's bench needs to continue evolving.
Meggs, Tripp can 'reverse it'
Because all five starters can score — four of them average double digits — the Panthers are difficult to defend.
Senior Brady Meggs, a 6-5 forward, is the focal point of the offense and has delivered at least 11 points in 15 straight games
Meggs is a low-post scorer, but he's also a good mid-range shooter.
Meggs and 6-6 sophomore center Cameron Tripp are like ying and yang.
Tripp has a really nice touch from 12-15 feet, but can also score with his back to the basket.
As Piedmont coach Rudi Heath describes it, Meggs and Tripp can "reverse it. Brady can come to the high post and Cameron can post up."
Having two inside players who can also face the basket — and understand how to play together — is unusual.
The Panthers wouldn't be 14-2, or anything like it, if they didn't have their 1-2 punch inside. But also credit ball handlers Qualen Blakeney and Jeremy Anthony, both capable scorers in their own right, for their willingness to share the ball.
Cards have character
Union Academy's boys haven't won a game this year, but you can't tell it by their effort.
The Cardinals (0-8) showed a lot of heart against Piedmont, and actually held a lead before wearing down midway through the second quarter.
I was impressed with the quickness and ball handling of junior point guard Jake Beeson, who passed out five assists while enduring Piedmont's extended pressure defense.
The Cards have just one senior and five sophomores on the eight-man roster, and 6-2 rebounder Ben Killion is the only player over 6-feet.
I've seen Union Academy twice this year, and regardless of the score, they play hard and don't hang their heads.
Staying positive is easy when you're winning, but it takes a lot of character when you haven't won a game and it's late January.
Their best chance for a win will be Wednesday, when the Cards host Pine Lake Prep (5-5). When the two teams played last month in Mooresville, the Pride escaped with a one-point win (53-52).