Patriots fall to Tuscaloosa in Elite Eight

Published 8:59 pm Tuesday, February 16, 2010

While the Pike Liberal Arts School girls’ team was able to celebrate during Fat Tuesday, the boys’ squad was not as lucky.

The Patriots were unable to overcome a sluggish first half, as the team’s season ended at the hands of Tuscaloosa Academy, 40-35.

One of the big reasons PLAS was unable to get anything going early on was because of the Knights’ 6-foot-8-inch starting center, Robert Nye.

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Nye finished with seven blocks in the game, four of which came in the first half alone limiting the Patriots to just four points in the first two quarters, falling behind 15-8 at the half.

“We couldn’t really get anything going in the first half,” Coach Mike Barbaree said.

“We got a couple of good looks [in the first half] but couldn’t finish, and it cost us.”

Another aspect of the game that hurt the Patriots during the first half of the game was its inability to control the basketball.

“We had way too many turnovers in the first couple of quarters. They capitalized on those opportunities and we didn’t,” the coach said.

The Patriots had 10 first half turnovers that the Knights were able to convert to 10 points.

The second half was a different story however for both teams, as PLAS began to give TA a taste of their own medicine.

The Patriots’ defense stepped up in the third quarter, forcing Knight turnovers four consecutive times.

During that run, the team was able to close the gap on the Knights’ lead.

By the end of the third quarter, PLAS only trailed by seven points at 27-20.

Barbaree said the difference between the first half and the second was his players just played the game.

“I think we were more relaxed out there and it showed.

“We were able to do some things right,” he added.

The Patriots continued to do things right, cutting the lead to just three points mid-way through the fourth quarter at 29-26 and then to just one-point late in the fourth.

However, as it turned out, that would be as close as PLAS would get.

A Chandler Avant turnover with 20 seconds left and the team down 38-35 would seal the Patriots’ fate, as the Knights would go on to hit free throws to get a five-point lead for the win.

PLAS shot 29 percent from the field, connecting on 14 of their 47 shots – the team shot just 19 percent in the first half.

Nick McLaughlin led the way for the Patriots, scoring a double-double in the season finale with 16 points and 13 rebounds.

Stewart Pinckard also added 10 points and six rebounds in the losing effort.

Ross Hixon was the only other PLAS player to score.

28 of the team’s points came in the paint, 20 of which were scored in the second half, however, from beyond the arc, the team was cold, missing all seven of its 3-pointers.

As far as the season as a whole, Barbaree said he was proud but was hoping for more.

“It’s always good to make it to the playoffs, and I am proud of the team for doing it – but I feel like we could have gone farther,” the coach said.