Patriots clinch top seed

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Pike Liberal Arts Lady Patriots cruised out to a big lead Friday and secured the AAA Region 2, Area 2 championship with a 57-28 win over Escambia Academy.

After moving up tip off nearly two hours, Patriots head coach Doug Hawkins was concerned about how his team would respond.

“We came out really hot,” Hawkins said. “This group is great bunch of girls. They want to win so you never have to motivate them. They were ready.”

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Thanks to big contributions from playmakers Lauren Johnson and Regine Parker, the Lady Patriots took a commanding 34-11 lead heading into half time.

Escambia implemented a 2-3 zone forcing the Patriots to shoot from the outside. Parker, Susie Stell and Mya Terry all were able to knock down the big shots.

“They all hit some outside shots and really opened things up,” Hawkins said. “We really jumped on them quick. It opened up the middle for us.”

Parker led the Patriots in scoring with 23 points after converting on five of 10 three-pointers and nine of 18 overall. Parker also had four assists and four rebounds. Johnson picked up a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

“I think they are ready for region play,” Hawkins said. “For us to win the region is big. That was one of our goals. We wanted to win regional and step up from there.”

The Patriots ( 14-5) have won seven consecutive games and 11 out of their last 13 and in many of them the Patriots have stormed out to big leads. With the start of region play looming, Hawkins knows they may have to withstand some adversity to get to where they want to be.

“I am little concerned about that,” Hawkins said. “We really haven’t been in those games in the last few weeks. They haven’t had that pressure on them. I think they have a lot of confidence and hopefully that will go over when the game gets tight.”

The Patriots have a first-round bye and will face the winner of Morgan Academy and Escambia Academy. The game is set for 3 p.m. Friday at Fort Dale Academy in Greenville.