Miracle tourney run falls

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 6, 2000

one game short for PLAS


Sports Editor

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PHENIX CITY ­ The Pike Liberal Arts Patriots finally ran out of steam early Saturday evening, but not before they shook up the Class 3A East Area 1 Region Tournament.

In a championship game that was supposed to be between two teams with berths to the State Tournament safely tucked into their back pockets, the Patriots crashed the party at Glenwood and defeated No. 1 and regular-season champion Lee-Scott (who received the automatic State Tourney bid) in the second round forcing a championship game that would send the winner to State and the loser home for good.

The Glenwood Gators, playing on their home floor after their girls’ team won the right to host this year, eeked out the victory 48-36, but not without yet another close game with the Patriots.

Coming into the game with the Gators, PLAS had won six in a row against Glenwood on their home court, but in front of a rowdy crowd this time the weary Patriots, playing their third game in as many days finally gave out.

"I attribute that to the last five or six games of the season being barn burners and that’s taken a toll on us. I think that had a lot to do with this game," PLAS head coach Jim Ryan said. "We just couldn’t get it up at an emotional level and at a physical level. We showed spurts and just kept hanging in there. We played very good defense, but I think with our legs not under us all the way we would fall asleep at times and give up an easy basket or miss one on offense. That was the difference in the end."

The Pike Liberal Arts boys did have their chances. In the fourth quarter down by as much as 12, the Patriots put together a last-ditch effort to get back in the game and looked like they would do just that.

The Patriots hit four straight free throws then got a mid-range jumper from Clint Wallace and a great feed inside to Nick Paul who powered up for the shot and the foul. Paul hit the foul shot to cap a 7-0 run bringing them within five with 3:14 left.

Pike then applied the pressure defense and left the Gators reeling. Still, every time Glenwood coughed up the ball ­ three times in a row after the Paul free throw ­ the Patriots simply couldn’t find a way to convert.

Their chances given, the Patriots then fell behind an insurmountable lead that the Gators continued to add to at the free throw line leaving them with the Region championship trophy and Pike Liberal the runnerup. Worse yet, the Patriots were left without an invitation to the dance with the two slots allowed each Region already allotted.

"We’ve been over here six times since I’ve been over at Pike and this is the first time we’ve lost," an exhausted Ryan said after the game. "I hate that it comes to this one, I wish it could have been another time.

"Our kids played hard, I’m proud of them," he continued. "Our seniors go out as winners in my book. They’ve meant a lot to our program and they’ve meant a lot to Jim Ryan. I appreciate everything they’ve given us over the course of their career."

Layton Sanders led the Patriots with 10 points in the game, all coming in the first half while Josh Waldrop had eight and Nick Paul and B.J. Powell both finished with seven. Powell and Wallace were voted to the All-Tournament team for the Patriots.