With PLAS’s Layton Sanders, it’s all
about being competitive
By KEVIN PEARCEY
Karen Outlaw, who keeps the book for the Pike Liberal Arts School girl’s basketball team, said it best during last Friday’s East Regional boy’s contest between the Patriots and Morgan Academy:
"I’ve never seen a boy go from zero to 60 as quick as he does," she said.
She was talking about PLAS guard Layton Sanders, who had just broken on a Senators’ pass and intercepted it in the closing minutes of Pike’s 49-45 overtime win.
It’s common knowledge among most of the supporters at Pike Liberal Arts that Sanders may be the best pure athlete on the court come Friday’s Final Four noon tipoff against Tuscaloosa Academy.
The senior started at quarterback for two years and also pitches on the baseball team.
In the fall, Sanders threw for 1,426 yards, completing 51 percent of his passes and tossing 12 touchdowns. He was No. 4 in the state in total passing yardage and also scored seven rushing touchdowns.
But in four years, Sanders has never been a part of a winning program at Pike Liberal Arts.
Ironically, even as the Patriots prepare for their biggest basketball game to date, record-wise, they’re not winners. Pike stands at 13-13 on the season. Only a late season winning spurt over both Lee-Scott and Macon-East in the area tournament, coupled with last weekend’s win over Morgan, kept the Patriots’ season alive.
"I think they’re playing better now because they don’t have deer hunting on their mind," said Layton’s father Steve, who’s never been a big fan of basketball until this season.
"I’m more of football and baseball person," he continued. "And Layton’s always played baseball and football, but I think he picked up basketball in junior high. I think we’ve had a good basketball team for the last two or three years, but Lee-Scott’s had (Allen) Ponder and he’s been a thorn in our side."
That is, until the Patriots’ upset the Warriors in the first round of the area tournament. In the two school’s first meeting of the year, Pike battled Lee-Scott to the bitter end, but Sanders was charged with a technical foul in the closing minutes of the game.
It was one of two technicals the senior drew this season. Sanders not only competes every play, but sometimes he stops to let the officials know he’s doing so.
"He’s a kid who has all the athletic ability in the world," said PLAS head coach Paul Kirchharr. "But every now and then, his temper gets him in trouble."
"I think he gets that from my wife," said Steve, joking. "But Layton’s always had a temper and the older he gets, it seems like its easier for him to express it."
Temper aside, Sanders came through for the Patriots in the second half of their game with Morgan. The senior scored 14 points, all coming in the third and fourth quarters, helping to send Pike to its first Final Four appearence ever.
It’s the most success any Patriots’ athletic program has experienced for some time.
"We haven’t done this in awhile," said Sanders. "And now both the boys and girls are winning. It’s great."
Sanders shrugs off suggestions that his competitive nature sometimes crosses the limits.
"Coach (Kirchharr) tries to talk to me," he said. "But it’s been with me so long that I can’t stop now. This is my last year."