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Hixon free throws propel PLAS to win

Free throws almost cost Pike Liberal Arts the game against Fort Dale Tuesday. However, free throws were also what gave the Patriots the 36-35 overtime win over the Eagles.

“Fourth quarter, we had a chance to win the ball game from the free throw line, which is kind of ironic since we didn’t then, but came back and won it in overtime from the line,” said PLAS head coach Mike Barbaree.

The Patriots led 34-33 in the final seconds of overtime before Todd Burkett converted a lay-up for Fort Dale that gave it a 35-34 lead with roughly four seconds left.

Pike’s Ross Hixon took the ensuing inbound, and got off a desperation heave as tie expired from just across halfcourt. However, he was fouled in the act of shooting by the Eagles’ Stuart Matthews, and was granted three free throws with no time remaining on the clock.

“It was loud and I was nervous, but I knew had to relax and at least make two,” Hixon said.

Hixon made the first to tie the game at 35, but missed the second, setting the stage for the game to either continue or for PLAS to move to 2-0 in region play.

“I knew I just had to shoot like I always had,” Hixon said. “I thought the second one was in, so I had to regroup and just put it over the front of the rim.”

PLAS led 28-26 with 58 seconds remaining in regulation and had Stewart Pinckard heading to the free throw line. However, he missed both free throws, opening the door for Fort Dale’s Shanks Simmons to tie the game at 28 with 41.6 seconds remaining.

Nick McLaughlin went to the free throw line for PLAS with 9.4 seconds left and the game still tied, but missed both to set the stage for overtime.

Justin McLaughlin led the way for PLAS with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Hixon added nine points and Nick McLaughlin added 10 rebounds.

“He’s six-foot-one, but he plays like he’s six-foot-five,” Barbaree said of McLaughlin.

With the win, the Patriots moved to 2-0 in region play on the young season.

“The kids did a good job of taking care of the basketball, especially with still only having four days of practice,” Barbaree said. “We’re 2-0 in the region now, so I couldn’t be any prouder of this bunch right now.”

While the varsity boys celebrated a close win, the varsity girls were forced to lament a close 40-39 loss to Fort Dale.

PLAS led 39-38 with 4.6 seconds remaining and were preparing to inbound the basketball.

The Patriots almost committed a five-second violation, and were forced to call a timeout to regroup. On the second inbounds attempt, Fort Dale’s Brittany Huckaba stole the ball and hit a shot as time ran out to give the Eagles the 40-39 win.

“We didn’t execute, but the thing is we saw some positives,” said head coach Steven Kilcrease. “We got better tonight, so we’ve got to build on that and correct our mistakes. We’ve got to want the ball when the game is on the line.”

Rebecca Farrar led PLAS with 13 points, while Madison Sanders had eight and Anna Saunders had seven.

The varsity girls were not the only team with a tough loss Tuesday, as the junior varsity boys also lost in dramatic fashion, falling 29-25 to the Eagles.

The Patriots trailed 17-5 at halftime and 24-9 early in the third quarter.

However, the Patriots’ Chandler Avant exploded for 13 fourth quarter points to bring PLAS to within one at 25-24, but the Patriots were unable to complete the comeback.

“I was very, very proud of their character,” said coach Bob Pickett.

“I told them at halftime we were going to see what kind of team we have, depending on whether we laid down or whether we fought and came back. I couldn’t have been more proud of how hard they played in the second half.

Avant finished with 14 for PLAS, while Myles Loving added seven.

The junior varsity girls were also in action Tuesday, as they defeated Fort Dale 26-22.

Katie Ward led PLAS with seven, while Kori Chirico added six.