Tourney time:

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 1, 2002

PLAS plays host to boys, girls region tournaments


Sports Editor

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An analogy:

Man starts a new job, clocks in everyday, and is rewarded with a load of stress, long hours and little pay.

But on down the line, with more experience under his belt, the man begins to receive better pay, more vacation time and an increased since of control over his environment.

At least that’s how it works in a perfect world.

Sometimes it even works like that on a basketball court.

At Pike Liberal Arts School one year ago, the most excitement surrounding the Lady Patriots’ basketball program happened in the preseason. That’s when the AISA was in the process of determining whether or not Bullock Memorial transfer Beth Anderson would be able to join PLAS on the court for her junior year.

She didn’t and the Pike girls muddled their way through a 4-14 record.

But Anderson joined the team for offseason practice and, with the addition of former Bullock teammate Lindy Lunkenheimer this year, the Lady Patriots captured their first Class AAA East Region title since 1997, finishing the year with an 18-5 record and a No. 10 ranking in state polls.

"I felt like we would have a record like we had (this year)," said PLAS head coach Robert Hawkins. "But I was more worried about us not winning the region. I thought the region would be a little tougher then it was and a little harder."

The PLAS girls team finished the year a league-best 5-1 and with the title also came the opportunity to host the region tournament, which starts today in Troy at Patriots’ Gymnasium.

It’s the first time, according to Hawkins, that Pike Lib has ever hosted the region tournament.

The Lady Patriots are seeded first and will play fourth-seeded Macon-East at 5:30 p.m. The 2:30 match-up pits No. 2 Lee-Scott against No. 3 Glenwood.

But a loss in the tournament doesn’t end the Lady Patriots’ season. PLAS is guaranteed a postseason berth because of their regular season region title.

"We’d still love to win the region (tournament)," said Hawkins. "That’s one of our goals."

The Lady Patriots improved in almost every facet of the game this year. Senior Danielle Johnson and junior Rae Pinckard increased their point production beneath the basket and sophomore Brantley Kries teamed with Pinckard to provide an effective shot-blocking combination down low. Karli Tribe never met an opposing player that she couldn’t guard this season, while Lunkenheimer and Anderson gave the Lady Patriots a scoring combination from outside that few teams could match.

"I’m real happy with they way they’ve progressed," said Hawkins. "They’ve all got a lot better since last year and we’ve worked hard to do that. That’s what I told them about a month ago when we were all getting tired and burned out. I told them to let’s make it another month, because it would be a shame to burn out in the last few weeks after we’ve put so much into it."

The Lady Patriots responded to win 10 out of their last 11 ball games, which included two wins over ranked teams in Lakeside and Abbeville Christian.

And Pike Liberal Arts School fans responded as well, showing their support for Hawkins’ team both at home and on the road.

"It’s really been better then I thought it would be," he said. "You never know about girls basketball. It’s amazing the interest people that used to go to school out here, or even the ones that’s never had any association with girls basketball, have shown in this team. And it’s a fun team to watch. They play hard and never quit. People have really supported us and there’s a couple of close games we had that I think the crowd may have pulled us through."

The AISA alternates between the champion of the boys and girls to determine which school hosts the region tournament. This year just happened to be the girls turn to decide it so the PLAS boys team will also play the tournament in their home gym.

But the Patriots will come in as a No. 4 seed and will have to face region champ Lee-Scott tonight at 7 p.m. for the right to advance to the championship game on Saturday. No. 2 Macon-East will play No. 3 Glenwood at 4 p.m.

However, PLAS head coach Paul Kirchaarr feels his team will match-up better against the Warriors, who are led by 6-foot-4 senior Allen Ponder.

And the numbers back Kirchaarr up. the Patriots fell twice to Lee-Scott during the regular season, but a by a grand total of only seven points. PLAS held Ponder to 15 points in the last game in Auburn.

"We’ve tried to approach this like our second season," said Kirchaarr, whose squad finished the year with a 10-14 record.