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PLAS preparation

With seven games under their belts, the Pike Liberal Arts Patriots are closing in on the halfway point of the 2009-10 basketball season as the team prepares to celebrate the Christmas holidays.

The season began on Nov. 30 against Hooper Academy just a few days after PLAS captured the AISA Class AAA state championship in football.

“Of course, we were a little behind when the season started because of football winning the state championship,” said head coach Mike Barbaree. “But, the guys have worked hard and have had a good attitude.”

The Patriots have gone 4-3 over the first month of the season, including 2-1 in region play, and Barbaree said definite improvements have been made since the season opener back on Nov. 30.

“I feel like we’re getting there,” Barbaree said. “We’ve made a whole lot of progress over this first month of the season.”

One of the challenges for the Patriots was reacquiring a feel for the game of basketball. However, thanks to the Patriots’ senior leaders, the team has begun to get in more and more of a rhythm.

“The guys came in in great shape because of all the football training, but basketball is a little different,” Barbaree said. “We’ve been able to overcome that though, because we really do have great leadership out there.”

While the Patriots have begun to get their basketball legs back, Barbaree said there is still much to work on between now and the season’s end.

“Our offense really has to keep improving,” Barbaree said. “We have rebounded well and played very good defense, but our shots just haven’t gone down. We’ve had a few shots start to fall for us lately, but our shots still aren’t where they need to be. There’s also some specialty-type things we need to work on, such as trap breaks and press breaks, but the offense is still the main concern right now.”

The numbers certainly bear Barbaree’s statements out. The Patriots have held their opponents to just 44.9 points per game, but the Patriot offense has scored just 45 points per game.

The offense has begun to show signs of life, as the Patriot’s two highest point totals came in their last two games against Dixie Academy and Lakeside. PLAS scored 65 and 66 points in those games, respectively.

Still, despite the offensive struggles and lack of preseason preparation time, the Patriots will have an opportunity to move into a tie for first place in the region when they take on Lee-Scott at home Jan. 5.

“I’m very happy with where we are,” Barbaree said. “We’re 2-1 in region play right now, and that includes a big win over Fort Dale, with Lee-Scott being our only loss. I still haven’t seen any of Macon-East or Glenwood, but I feel pretty pleased with where we stand in the region at the moment.”

However, Barbaree is not looking ahead to any game on the schedule.

“I hate to speculate on where we might wind up, but I know these guys really do have the heart and the desire it takes to win,” Barbaree said. “Hopefully, we’ll keep playing hard and be able to be right there at the end.”

The varsity girls of PLAS have also been hard at work this season. The Patriots are 6-2, but are just 1-2 in region play.

“Obviusly, we werehoping to be 3-0 in region play, but we knew coming in our region was going to be very tough,” said head coach Steven Kilcrease.

The two losses came on a buzzer beater to Fort Dale and in overtime against No. 1 ranked Lee-Scott.

“We’ve worked hard the last two weeks to correct mistakes from those games, and I think we’re a better basketball team because of it,” Kilcrease said.

For the Patriots, that work has included getting back to basics. “We really weren’t defending very well, but I think we’ve got that corrected now,” Kilcrease said. “We’ve also gone back to the fundamentals. We aren’t running as many plays in practice, so we’re just wokring on ourselves. It’s been like the first practice all over again, and I think it’s helped.”

The girls are averaging 50.4 points per game, while holding their opponents to just 39.9 points per game.

The start by PLAS has been good enough to vault the Patriots to a No. 5 ranking in the ASWA AISA basketball poll.

The Patriots will look to even their region record at 2-2 when they take on No. 1 ranked Lee-Scott on Jan. 5.