For the first time in history, a state basketball championship banner will hang in Pike County.
The Pike Liberal Arts varsity girls defeated Glenwood 27-24 Saturday, and in the process, secured both the school and the county’s first-ever state title.
The Patriots have had a couple of days to bask in the afterglow of their AISA Class AAA state title win, but the excitement over winning the state championship has not subsided.
“It’s a pretty big deal because we’ve been working for six years now, what with summer workouts and everything,” said senior Katie Wiggins. “To have put in all that time, it’s definitely good to know that it amounted to something in the end.”
Fellow senior Eady Pinckard said the championship validated all the effort the Patriots’ senior class has put in.
“It was just great to know that all the hard work we have put in has paid off,” Pinckard said. “All these seniors have been together since seventh grade, so it was just great to feel like we accomplished something together.”
PLAS head coach Steven Kilcrease said he knows how much work the girls have put in over their high school careers.
“These girls really put in a lot of hours in the gym, and also outside just running and getting in shape,” Kilcrease said. “They’ve been working hard for the last three years, and a lot of them going back even further. Most of them played back in junior high, and some of them even played on varsity as eighth graders and started as freshmen. They’ve put in a lot of hours, a lot of sweat and a lot of tears.”
All the sweat and tears paid off when the Patriots hung on to defeat Glenwood Saturday.
The Patriots led 16-9 at the half, but saw Glenwood battle back to cut the lead to two late in the game.
The Gators had four chances to tie the game, but missed on all four, enabling PLAS to walk away with the championship trophy.
“I was just hoping we didn’t mess up,” said senior Anna Saunders. “It had been a close game the whole game, so I was just ready for the buzzer to go off.”
Pinckard said her nerves and tensions were high during the game’s final seconds.
“I was very, very nervous and I was starting to worry,” Pinckard said. “But, we came together as a team and we were able to pull it out.”
Kilcrease said the close win was indicative of the Patriots’ entire season.
“It was just appropriate since we had played so many tight games year,” Kilcrease said. “Plus, it’s a state championship game, so it should have been tight.”
After the game, Wiggins said the scene in the Patriot locker room was incredible.
“It was just indescribable,” Wiggins said. “There are no words for it. There were a lot of emotions because we all knew it was the last time we would play together, but we had won the state championship, so it was really just indescribable.”
Both Wiggins and Saunders were named to the all-tournament team along with fellow seniors Pinckard and Rebecca Farrar. Farrar was named tournament MVP after scoring 10 points and pulling down 11 rebounds in the state championship game.
“Individual awards aren’t as important to me as the team winning the state championship, but it was still exciting,” Farrar said.
For the Patriots, the win was the culmination of a long season of hard work, a season that certainly had its share of tough times, such as a 1-2 start to region play.
“Back early on in the season, things weren’t going as we had hoped, but these girls pushed and worked and really came together,” Kilcrease said.
The team’s ability to come together led to not only a fantastic team accomplishment, but also a lifetime of memories for the individuals that made up the team.
“It was amazing,” Saunders said.
“It’s definitely one of the main things I’ll remember about high school.”
Wiggins, meanwhile, said the win not only validated the hard work put in by the Patriots’ basketball team, but by all of the girls’ teams at Pike Liberal.
“To be a girls team and to win state, it made us feel respected,” Wiggins said.
“It just showed everybody that we’re athletes, too.”