Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 5, 2002
Both PLAS boys, girls advance
By KEVIN PEARCEY
Pike Liberal Arts School’s Jared Waldrop said it best:
"I love being the underdog," said the senior following the Patriots’ 52-45 win over Macon-East Academy on Saturday night in the Class AAA Area 1 tournament championship game.
Pike Lib’s boys team, which finished the season with a 1-5 area record, swept both tournament contests and will now advance to the East Regionals on Friday at Faulkner University in Montgomery. PLAS, a fourth seed in their own gym, upset regular season area champion Lee-Scott 52-39 on Friday.
"It’s unbelievable," said head coach Paul Kirchharr. "I think they’re (the players) finally starting to believe in themselves."
But the title didn’t come with out its share of drama.
The Knights opened up a five-point halftime lead early in the third quarter as Jordan Mills connected a on shot from behind the arc and a two-point basket.
Suddenly, the Patriots (12-13) found themselves in a 10-point hole.
"I just felt like we had to settle down and I knew if we could penetrate some, it would open things up inside," said Kirchharr.
Waldrop also knew he and his teammates would respond to the challenge.
"I just said, ‘hey, this could be our last game, so let’s leave everything on the court."
Waldrop hit a shot and then Daniel Hussey came through with a clutch three-pointer to answer Macon East’s early third quarter spurt. The two teams exchanged baskets twice, then Michael DiChiara and Waldrop combined to score four points and close out the third with the Knights’ leading 42-38.
Waldrop picked up his fourth foul early in the final period, but still stood his ground on the inside to draw two crucial charging calls against Macon-East.
"I was worried about one (call) because I didn’t know if I had my feet set," said Waldrop. "But he (the referee) gave it to me."
Following a Brandon Hooks’ three-pointer, Waldrop tied the game at 43-43 with a layup. After pulling down a defensive rebound, Layton Sanders gave Pike its first lead since the second quarter on fastbreak jump shot, but the Knights answered right back with a field goal by John Corbitt.
However, that would be Macon-East’s final points of the ball game.
James Goude missed a runner and Sanders grabbed the board with 1:15 remaining. The senior hit both free throws to put PLAS up by four, 49-45.
Druid Conrad went three-of-four at the foul line to end the game for the Patriots.
Waldrop took tournament MVP honors, but not credit for Pike’s win. He finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Hooks led the Patriots with 16 points, while Conrad added 12.
"I think Michael DiChiara worked his butt off to help this team win this," said Waldrop about his fellow senior.
DiChiara, Conrad and Sanders all joined Waldrop on the boy’s all-tournament team.
PLAS will enter the East Region tournament as the No. 1 seed out of Area 1 and will play Morgan Academy at noon on Friday at Faulkner.
The Lady Patriots also made it a Pike clean sweep on Saturday by handing the Lee-Scott Lady Warriors, 48-34.
Beth Anderson scored 17 points, while Danielle Johnson added 10, as PLAS outscored Lee-Scott 15-2 in the final six minutes of the third quarter to take control of the game. The Lady Patriots (20-5) led 24-17 at halftime, but Lee-Scott opened the second half up with a 7-0 run to tie the game.
But Pike got baskets from Karli Tribe, Rae Pinckard, Johnson, and Lindy Lunkenheimer to pull away in the game.
Johnson scored six straight points for the Lady Patriots to open the fourth quarter.
One scary moment, though; as the clock was ticking off the final seconds, Lunkenheimer, the Lady Patriots’ starting point guard, rolled her ankle and had to be helped off the court.
Following the game, head coach Robert Hawkins’ hoped the injury wasn’t too serious.
PLAS opens against Fort Dale at the East Region tournament on Friday. Tip-off is at 10:30 a.m.
"I don’t think it’s that bad," he said. "I think it just scared her more then anything. But I don’t know if it scared anyone more then me."
Tribe scored eight points also for PLAS. Pinckard had eight boards and four blocks, while Brantley Kries added nine boards and three blocks.
Anderson was named tourney MVP and Tribe, Pinckard and Lunkenheimer each made all-tournament.