Eagles Handle Piedmont in Home Opener

Emory men’s basketball triumphed over the Piedmont College (Ga.) Lions 83-64 at home Nov. 15 to open their regular season, with five players scoring in double digits.

Senior forward Adam Gigax led the team in scoring with 15 points, trailed by freshman guard Romin Williams with 14 points.

It took more than two minutes of play before Piedmont forward Justin Vallejo opened the scoring with a layup. The game’s slow start continued through the first six minutes, with both teams trading baskets but failing to convert opportunities from the three-point line and in the paint.

The slow start was no cause for alarm, Head Coach Jason Zimmerman said.

“We had great looks, just missed them,” Zimmerman said. “We only shot 40 percent from the field.”

Scoring picked up after the sixth minute despite coordinated defense from Emory. Vallejo nabbed an offensive rebound and a bucket to keep his team close at 13-12 with 12:33 left on the clock. Williams made both of his free throws after a foul by Piedmont guard Landry Assinesi with 12 minutes remaining to take the score to 15-14.

Gigax and Piedmont guard Taylor Mills scored three-point jump shots, maintaining the single point separation until junior guard Gebereal Baitey converted a steal into a layup with nine minutes left. Gigax extended Emory’s lead with another layup soon after, prompting a timeout from Piedmont. The score was 22-17.

Piedmont fought their way back to 24-25 with six minutes left, but it was all Emory from that point onward. Freshman guard Nick Stuck and junior forward Beau Bommarito made strong defensive rebounds and stuck scored two layups with four minutes left, while Gigax scored another three-pointer in between, bringing Emory’s lead to 34-24.

Baitey drove over the Piedmont defense to score a layup and was fouled in the process with just less than two minutes left in the half. Baitey missed his free throw but extended Emory’s lead to 38-27. Freshman forward Lawrence Rowley made a free throw, and Baitey scored another layup to end the half 41-28.

Baitey credited his teammates for his strong first half performance.

“I think we all work really well together,” Baitey said. “I just happened to be the main benefactor in the first half.”

The Eagles maintained a solid lead throughout the second half. The Piedmont defense looked disorganized as the half progressed, and senior guard Whitt Rapp and senior forward Christopher Avant took full advantage. With 12 minutes remaining, Rapp bypassed the entire Piedmont defense with a deep pass to Avant for a lay-in that built Emory’s lead to 14. Rapp finished the game with nine assists, leading both teams.

Bommarito extended Emory’s lead in impressive style as the game wound down, skipping around a Piedmont defender to sink a layup with just under eight minutes left. Williams scored from beyond the three-point line less than a minute later.

The Eagles maintained composure and relaxed into their lead as the game neared its end. Rowley was fouled in the last minute and made both free throws to bring the final score to 83-64.

Zimmerman praised the all-around effort of the team.

“I think there are going to be a lot of people who contribute this year,” Zimmerman said. “We had five guys in double figures.”

Alongside Gigax and Williams, Bommarito, Baitey and Avant all scored in double digits. Avant also led Emory in rebounds with 11.

Emory continued their season with an away win against the Berry College (Ga.) Vikings, 109-103, Nov. 21 before a tight loss, 84-78, at LaGrange College (Ga.) Nov. 25. The Eagles won at home again Nov. 26 against the Maryville College (Tenn.) Scots, 102-92.

Baitey said the team’s attitude allowed the Eagles to turn the loss to LaGrange around the next day.

“Our big word for the day of the Maryville game was ‘juice,’” Baitey said. “When we lost to LaGrange we came out really flat whereas they had a lot of energy to build upon. So before the Maryville game we had to make a conscious effort to bring our own juice and supply us with some energy so we could deliver the first blow.”

Emory’s record stands at 3-1 heading into their home game against Birmingham Southern College (Ala.) at 7 p.m., Nov. 29.