FYFFE — The Fyffe boys basketball team showed what a difference great defense can make.
Overcoming a sluggish start, the Red Devils limited the Piedmont Bulldogs to 13 second-half points and closed the game with clutch free-throw shooting, winning 61-51 in a Class 3A Northeast Sub-Regional semifinal game at Mike Cochran Gymnasium on Friday night.
Fyffe (24-6) played area rival Plainview in the 3A Northeast Regional Final on Tuesday at Pete Mathews Coliseum on the campus of Jacksonville State University. Plainview routed Saks 73-33 on Friday night.
Tuesday's regional games between the Fyffe and Plainview boys and the Sylvania and Plainview girls were not completed before press time. Follow The Times-Journal on Facebook and Twitter for updates.
“When we started out tonight I thought it might be our last game, because we didn’t seem to be into the game,” Fyffe coach Neal Thrash said. “I don’t know what was going on.”
Parker Godwin paced Fyffe with 25 points and five assists, Micah Johnson added 12 points and 10 rebounds, Brody Dalton contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds and Tate Goolesby chipped in seven points and 10 rebounds.
After erupting for 24 of his game-high 32 points in the first half, Piedmont’s Alex Odam was restrained to just eight second-half points, courtesy of Xavier Works’ defensive performance.
“I tried to tell them how good (Odam) was for Piedmont, and I don’t think they believed me,” Thrash said. “But now they had a good dose of him right there. He did some very special things in the first half, but then we settled down and started getting after his tail.
Thrash praised the job Works did in guarding Odam in 1-on-1 situations in the second half.
“It was about staying with (Odam) and staying with hands up in his face,” the coach said. “And if he started getting a couple of dribbles into the paint, we were going to have somebody run and help.
“Tate Goolesby, Micah Johnson and Brody Dalton all did a really good job of coming to help defend.”
Odam poured in 17 points in the second period to help push the Bulldogs to a 38-29 halftime advantage before the Red Devils sharpened their defensive effort and rallied back.
Godwin scored a layup off a stolen pass and assisted Works with a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 45-43 with 3:21 remaining in the third. Goolesby found Dalton for a layup to make it a one-point game and Johnson dished to an open Goolesby, who buried a trey, to lift Fyffe into a 47-45 lead with 1:50 to play in the period.
Odam sank a pair of free throws to send the game into a 47-47 tie entering the fourth.
Fyffe took the lead for good with 5:14 left in regulation and extended it by making 9 of 12 free-throw tries in the closing minutes.
“We’ve not been the best free-throw-shooting team in the world this year, but tonight we did really well,” Thrash said. “The ones we missed weren’t deadly for us, but we made some crucial foul shots.”
The Red Devils trailed 12-3 after Omarion Foster made two free throws with 3:33 remaining in the opening period. Godwin cashed in two shots from beyond the arc and Works added another 3-pointer to narrow the gap to 18-16 by quarter’s end.
Johnson assisted Godwin with a 3-pointer to give Fyffe a 19-18 lead with 7:41 to play until intermission. Godwin chipped in two free throws and an assist to Dalton for a layup to give the Red Devils a 25-24 edge with 4:52 to play, before Odam sank into a hot-shooting streak for Piedmont.