Patriots hitting the hard wood

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Pike Liberal Arts Patriots head into the 2015-16 basketball season with a veteran roster ready to make a splash in the competitive AISA Triple-A Conference.

The Patriots began their season with a hard fought loss to Northside last Thursday, but head coach Alan Ponder is excited for what’s to come.

“There is a lot of athleticism out there,” Ponder said. “We are every excited. We have a lot of potential this year. Right now we are a work in progress but I feel like we will get better.”

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The goal in the off-season was to improve on last season’s success.

“The boys have been working really hard,” Ponder said. “I feel like by the time we reach region play, we can be a very successful basketball team.”

The Patriots enter the season with a senior-heavy roster. The six seniors Marquese Christian, Hayes Lee, John David Cox, Dacoda McConnell, Kiegan Simmons, Adam Grice and CJ Allen.

“That is really good for us (to have a lot of seniors) in terms of leadership,” Ponder said. “They will be able to help the young ones along. The seniors have been working hard, and that has trickled down to the rest of our team.”

This is Ponder’s first year as basketball coach, and he brings a fast-paced game plan.

“What we are trying to do around here is create excitement for the basketball program,” Ponder said. “We had a lot of excitement around football this year and we always have excitement for baseball, so we are trying to follow suit with basketball.”

Fans can expect the Patriots to run an up-tempo offense that relies on beating the opponents down the court.

“We want to play a very fast game and get up and down the court,” Ponder said. “We are not extremely big. We have some height but we are not very big. We are going to try and play a very athletic brand of basketball.”

Christian will be point guard, “and we expect a lot out of him this year,” Ponder said. “We expect a lot about all our seniors. Those guys are our contributors and we will go as far as those guys will take us.”

And players will be tasked with focusing on fundamentals. “Those are the things that are pivotal for us to have success this year,” Ponder said. “We have to take care of the ball. Last Thursday we had way too many turnovers. We have to do a really good job at not turning over the basketball and being able to rebound and box people out. We are going to be undersized in most of the games we play this year.”

The Patriots’ region opponents include Fort Dale, Monroe Academy and Escambia Academy. “It’s too early to tell where we stack up right now,” Ponder said. “We don’t know what everybody else has right now. I really like my team and I really think we will be able to compete with anybody this year. Our region was really competitive last year, and I expect it to be the same this year.”

The Patriots will return home Thursday when all four Patriot teams will host Lee Scott, starting at 4.