Pike JV girls head to state tournament

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Pike Liberal Arts JV Lady Patriots will travel to Selma this weekend to take part in the AISA AAA JV State Tournament. The Lady Patriots were one of eight JV teams invited to the tournament hosted by Morgan Academy.

For the Lady Patriots, the invitation to the tournament is the culmination of a season of hard work. “We want to get wins at the tournament,” head coach Craig Kennedy said. “I’m happy for them because they deserve it. This is a lot of the same group that went to the volleyball state tournament last year. I think it’s a reward for all the hard work they’ve done this year.”

Kennedy coaches both the varsity and junior varsity girls’ teams at Pike. He said the junior varsity team is one of the most fun teams he has ever coached. “I love this team’s attitude and effort,” Kennedy said. “The girls have a phenomenally positive attitude. They cheer for each other. They dive on the floor for every loose ball. They’re just not afraid to get after it.”

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Kennedy said his focus while coaching the junior varsity is to mold the girls in to eventual varsity players. “We work on reading the floor and the fundamentals of basketball,” Kennedy said. “Your fundamentals can always get better. Basketball is a tough sport to play. It’s sort of like driving a car. When you play at a high level, you have less than three seconds to make a decision, but there’s not just one decision to make. It’s more like there are 14 decisions you can make.”

Kennedy has seen a real improvement in his junior varsity players since the beginning of the year. “Their understanding of the game is better,” Kennedy said. “This group has always been competitive, and that hasn’t changed from the beginning of the season. The intensity level has increased during the course of the season. They’re getting to the point where they can read some stuff on the floor. One of the girls will make a pass, and I’ll think to myself, ‘Wow, that was a pretty good pass.’”

As the players have learned more about basketball throughout the course of the season, they have begun to teach one another on the floor. “When I was in Canada for my dad’s funeral, coach [Gene] Allen had to take over for me,” Kennedy said. “He didn’t know how we normally practiced, so the girls basically just ran practice on their own. He was impressed. The group teaches one another on the court, and they don’t take offense at their teammates’ suggestions.”

The Lady Pats open the tournament against the Fort Dale Eagles. Kennedy said his team will be looking for revenge. “We owe Fort Dale after last time,” Kennedy said. “They have this big 6’3” kid who likes to camp in the lane. We can’t allow her to do that this time out.”

Even though the state tournament takes place on Saturday, the Lady Patriots have two more regular season games during the following week.

Pike Liberal Arts and Fort Dale will tip at 10:15 on Saturday at Morgan Academy in Selma.