Game time!

Published 9:48 pm Monday, February 15, 2010

After seven inches of snow fell on Troy and most of Alabama, the AISA Elite Eight, which was originally scheduled for this past Friday, will finally take place.

And it could not come sooner for the Pike Liberal Arts School boys’ varsity basketball team.

It will have been 11 days since the team’s last second 41-40 win over Fort Dale in the AISA AAA Region 1 Tournament and now the team must be ready to play in an even bigger game.

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“I don’t really know how the layoff would effect the team,” Patriots’ head coach Mike Barbaree said Monday afternoon following the team’s last practice before Tuesday’s game. “I am a little concerned about the amount of time in between games though.”

During that extended layoff, the team had three days off of practice – something the coach believes may help coming into today’s game.

“I think the days the team has had off recently [over the weekend] will maybe help them.

“The team was anxious to play towards the end of [last] week and the three days off over the weekend was an opportunity for the kids to get the game out of their minds,” he added.

As far as keeping the kids in game mode, Barbaree said Monday’s practice was filled with “little games and situational things.” If the team were to defeat Tuscaloosa for the second time this season, it would advance the Patriots to the AISA Final Four for just the second time in the program’s history – but that doesn’t necessarily add any extra pressure to the team, according to Barbaree.

“I think if anything, it provides more motivation for the team,” the coach said.

“The guys are all pretty excited about this opportunity.”

As far as the team that is standing in the Patriots’ way of accomplishing the feat, Barbaree said Tuscaloosa would be a difficult team to beat.

“They are a good basketball team,” he said about the Knights, who finished the regular season with a 17-10 overall record.

“They have [Junior forward Robert Nye] in the post that is 6-feet-8-inches, along with some good point guards, who are good outside shooters.

“We are going to need to stop their penetration – they are going to be a better team then we saw in December,” he added.

PLAS defeated Tuscaloosa earlier this season by the score of 41-29.

One of the Patriots’ main offensive threats, as well as tallest players, senior Justin McLaughlin, who stands at 6-feet-2-inches, is out for the remainder of the season, thanks to a second-degree shoulder separation. Despite the loss, Barbaree said the team’s philosophy would not change.

“Besides switching some positions, nothing has changed.

“Nick [McLaughlin] and Stewart Pinkard have both stepped up for us in Justin’s absence, and I believe they will continue to do so,” he said.

The Patriots will look to take one step closer to the state championship, today at 1: 30 p.m. in Huntingdon, as the team will look to defeat Tuscaloosa.