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Ready for Regional

Pike Liberal’s Patriots and Lady Patriots are finished with the regular season, but both squads now shift their focus on winning a region championship and then a state championship.

The Patriots (11-11) and No. 5 Lady Patriots (14-8) open the AISA Class 3A, Region 1 tournament Thursday on the Huntingdon College courts. The Lady Patriots enter as the No. 2 seed and the Patriots enter as the No. 4 seed.

“It was big to get that No. 2 spot,” PLAS girls’ head coach Steven Kilcrease said. “One reason is that we can stay on the other side of the bracket from Lee-Scott, which is the best team and the team to beat not just in our region, but in the state. And you have to like your chances because of that.”

The Lady Patriots will face Macon-East, a team that has not won a region game all year, in the first round. But Kilcrease said it could be a trap to look past a team with an 0-fer.

“I learned eight years ago that you can’t take anything for granted,” Kilcrease said. “My first year at Lee-Scott our boys were playing Pike, who had not won a region game, and they beat us and went on to the Final Four. So we won’t take that for granted and we know it is tough.”

Kilcrease said his team is ready for the challenge and boys’ head coach Mike Barbaree’s Patriots are definitely ready, according to Barbaree.

“Fort Dale is a scrappy team and they beat us earlier in the year, but I don’t think we were ready to play back-to-back games in December,” Barbaree said. “But now I think our boys are ready to play. We are physically ready and we are mentally ready to play as well.”

The Patriots faced Crenshaw Christian and went to overtime and had to face Fort Dale on the road the next day Dec. 8-9.

Both the Patriots and Lady Patriots will earn a bid to the state playoffs with a win Thursday. The girls face Macon-East at 10 a.m. and the boys are scheduled to tip off at 11:30 a.m.