ALBANY -- Tim Pierce took flight Saturday night.
Well, not literally, but in the middle of the third quarter, Pierce soared, rising above everyone on the court. And when he took off, he took Albany High with him.
"He was the difference,'' said Terrell County coach John Davis, whose team played Herald No. 2 Albany High tough until Pierce put the game -- and his team -- on his shoulders and carried the Indians to a 69-52 win in the first round of the U Save It Pharmacy Boys Basketball Tournament Saturday.
It was a 31-29 game at halftime, and Albany High was still hanging on to a 36-33 lead with about four minutes left in the third when Pierce put on a show, ripping off a personal 10-point run that lifted the Indians to a 46-33 lead.
He busted back-to-back 3s to get the run going with his second shot spinning around the rim, tantalizing the standing-room-only crowd at Albany High, where they packed the gym for the opening day of the tournament.
Then Pierce hit an outside shot with 3:10 left, and before Terrell County could think about stopping him, Pierce made a steal and drove the court for a thundering dunk to put an exclamation point on his personal run.
"We called his number, and he understands what he needs to do,'' Albany High coach Archie Chatmon said. "We just tell him, 'Do what you do.' It's like he has a clock in his head, and he knows now is the time.''
Pierce, a Herald Super 6er, finished with his second 30-point night of the season (he scored 32 against Westover last week) and helped keep Albany High unbeaten at 5-0 -- and he dazzled the crowd while doing it.
"He is a joy to watch,'' Chatmon said. "He will make a fan out of you. He'll make a coach a fan in a heartbeat.''
Chatmon has a policy of not allowing his players to speak to the media, but Pierce didn't need to say anything.He said it all and more during the third quarter, and Albany High took the momentum of his spectacular run and ran away from Terrell County (4-3).
The Greenwave was led by Herald Super 6er Dekoven Ware, who scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half. Ware had to sit out a good part of the third after picking up his fourth foul, but Albany High was determined to stop him.
"He just manhandles us in the first half,'' Chatmon said. "He was killing us on the boards, but we challenged our bigs to get in there and stop him in the second half. When we were able to get that fourth foul on him we started dominating the boards.''
Albany High got points from everywhere. Larry Anderson finished with 16 points and Larry Sanford scored 15.
Terrell County ran into foul trouble early as both Ware and 6-foot-5 junior Jamal Loud picked up three fouls in the first half. The Greenwave got a big game from Jevon McIntosh, who scored 12 points and battled all night. But Pierce and a stingy Albany High defense proved to be too much in the second half.
"Playing them, it was a matter of us capitalizing on every possession,'' said Davis, who lost four starters from his Class A state finalist team last year. "They have a real good team, and (Pierce) is a real good player. He has a nice perimeter shot, and he keeps his composure. He has had a good career. He's been a good player for a while.''
Albany High meets city rival Dougherty in the semifinals of the tournament at Albany high at 7 p.m. Monday, while Terrell County faces Statesboro in the consolation bracket at 4 p.m. Monday.