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Knights end Patriots’ magic run

Sports Editor

At some point in Friday afternoon’s Class AAA boy’s semifinal game, Cinderella finally lost her slipper.

Advancing to the Final Four for the first time in school history, Pike Liberal Arts School ran into a deeper Tuscaloosa Academy squad and fell to the Knights 55-39 at Huntingdon College.

PLAS ended the year with a 13-14 record.

"I’m proud of this team," said head coach Paul Kirchharr. "We had some adversity and some attitude problems that we went through earlier in the year, but we overcame it. I told them after the game that I loved them and I appreciated their commitment to this program."

Kirchharr said, while Tuscaloosa’s bench did affect his team’s performance, the Patriots’ poor showing on offense hurt their chances of beating the top-ranked team in the state.

"You can’t win if you can’t put the ball in the hole," he said.

Pike’s last lead came with 4:07 left in the first half. In the second quarter, the Knights’ 6-foot-6 center Marcus Cooks went to the bench after picking up his third foul and the Patriots took advantage of the senior’s absence, going on an 8-1 run to take a 17-16 lead on two free throws by Jared Waldrop. Druid Conrad had started the run with two foul shots and back-to-back baskets.

"We had what we wanted," said Kirchharr. "We had Cooks in foul trouble. But we got up by one and I don’t know what happened. I think we panicked."

The Knights stormed back with a vengeance, outscoring Pike 10-0 to close out the first half with a 26-17 lead.

Michael DiChiara opened the third with a field goal for the Patriots, but Cooks and Tuscaloosa put together a 9-0 run, building their lead to 35-19.

The Patriots got four points from Layton Sanders, a three-pointer from Conrad, and a Brandon Hooks’ foul shot to cut the lead to eight, but the Knights finished out the quarter with six straight, highlighted by a William Barnes’ breakaway slam dunk.

Cooks had 14 points to lead Tuscaloosa Academy.

Conrad scored 14 for Pike Lib and pulled down six rebounds. Sanders also had six boards and scored 12 points.