LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- Both Covenant and Piedmont had a lot to play for in Monday night's make-up game from Jan. 29. With the USA South Tournament on the horizon, both schools are currently just outside the top eight to qualify.
The two teams played as if their seasons hung in the balance in a fast-paced game but it was the visiting Lions that were able to pull away in the second half for a 78-70 victory over the Scots inside Barnes Physical Education Center.
The loss puts Covenant and Piedmont in a virtual tie for ninth in the USA South standings, though now the Lions hold the tiebreaker. Covenant drops to 8-14 on the season and 3-8 in league play. Piedmont goes to 8-12 overall and 3-7 in conference.
Teron Ferguson tied a career-high with 13 points to go along with eight rebounds, two assists and one monstrous block. Ferguson was 5-of-9 from the field on the evening. Robby Bell chipped in 12 points, including three 3-pointers, and five rebounds. Chris Boyd and Ben Phelps each had eight points and Boyd also collected eight rebounds and blocked two shots.
Piedmont got off to a hot start as they led 11-2 just two-and-a-half minutes into the game after Austin Pearson drained a 3-pointer. Pearson was injured on the play and did not return to the court.
Down 13-2, Covenant cut its deficit to 17-14 following a Phelps jumper and a Will Portlock 3-pointer on consecutive possessions. A few minutes later, the Scots rattled off an 8-2 scoring run to take a 27-25 lead on a Bell free throw with 6:28 left in the half. Piedmont gained a 40-31 edge with under a minute left in the period, but Ferguson finished the half scoring five straight points for the Scots on a 3-pointer and a short jumper just before the buzzer.
Piedmont held a comfortable lead anywhere between six and 10 points for more than 11 minutes into the second half before Covenant made one last push.
Trailing 59-51, the Scots sliced the deficit to 59-58 on a Boyd layup with 4:37 left in the game. But Piedmont answered with 10 straight points over a two-and-a-half minute stretch to push the lead back to double digits at 69-58. The Lions made free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
Four players scored in double figures for Piedmont led by Chase England's 15 points and eight rebounds. Brian Edwards added 12 points and six boards, while Jessie Jenkins and Safari Smith each had 11. Smith scored all of his points from the charity stripe as he went 11-for-16.
Covenant shot 35.2 percent (25-of-71) from the field and made nine 3-pointers. Piedmont was 25-of-54 (46.3 percent) overall and 23-of-37 from the foul line. Piedmont also held a 47-39 rebounding edge.
These two schools will meet again on Thursday in Demorest, Ga. Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m.